The European editor of Time magazine was talking about Americans in reference to the murders of the children in Connecticut. American born Catherine Mayer told the BBC World Service presenters last night that Americans are undecided about their identity, and the reason it's so hard to pass gun control laws is that so many Americans see gun ownership as part of their identity.
So we get to choose our identities, here in the land of the free market. The choices, I guess, would range from being someone who thinks gun ownership is an unlimited right, to someone who thinks it's a right subject to certain restrictions, to someone who thinks guns should be pretty much outlawed to someone who thinks they should be outlawed entirely.
But how do we come to make the choice about who we are? Do we just decide when we pop out of the womb? What about everything that influences or limits our choices, like the information and ideas we are exposed to, the society we are required to live in, the amount of insecurity we feel owing to factors like the economy and the economic restraints we each have?
Why do different people, exposed to basically the same environment, make so many different kinds of decisions about who they are?
Or are there really only two kinds of people, two types, each on different sides of a distinct line that runs through the human psyche? On one side are all the people who see taking the life of another human being as an option, on the other are all those who don't. On one side are people who have conceived the thought that there might be a time when something makes it necessary to pull the trigger. On the other people who can't conceive it, who refuse to consider that option, or who are afraid to, who know that the line is there. Who dream of a world where the line has receded all the way to the horizon, leaving us all safely, securely, happily on the human side, a world where no matter what has happened to you, you can't even see the other side, and children don't even know it is there.
There's been a lot of activity on Facebook about the Connecticut killings, some of which I've represented below, and you can see from them that people are grappling with the idea of who we are, and why.