May 27, 2013

I Don't Even Have to be in Joburg for Another Traffic Cop Story

It's not every day that you save somebody's life from 9000 miles away. Okay, perhaps not exactly their life, but definitely their dignity. And maybe even their Rolex watch.

So allow me to bask in my glory for just a teensy bit.

Do you remember my blog post about the absolute must-have document for your car if you want to roam South Africa's roads relatively unmolested? If you don't, or if you are new to this blog, go there immediately. Do not pass GO. Drop everything you are doing and proceed there right now - not just now or now now - until you've printed the document in question and put it in your glove compartment.

Or you might very well land in jail.

South African jail. I actually HAVE seen one, it turns out.

The story was relayed to me by a friend of mine. She was stopped in a road block in Alexandra. Which, if you've ever dared drive into Alexandra, you'll understand is totally unfair. I mean, you expect to be robbed or threatened or murdered when you drive into Alexandra, at least when you do it the first time. But police? You are totally not counting on any police to make an appearance.

But it does happen, trust me.

So she was stopped in the road block, and in what I can only imagine was a moment of triumph, she pulled my little sheet from her glove compartment and started reading it to the cop. Her offfense, that day, was not carrying her passport with her. Which the law says you aren't required to do, but that doesn't keep the cops from trying that particular tactic anyway, as it seems the most promising.

During our time in South Africa we were stopped for a) not carrying a passport (twice), b) not having my Traffic Register Number with me (three times), c) having an illegal radar detector mounted on my car, d) talking on the phone while driving, e) changing lanes at the last moment on the highway near the airport, f) trying to bypass traffic on an exit ramp by squeezing by on the shoulder (which of course is what taxis do all the time), g) speeding while laboring up a rather steep mountain pass, h)  not having paid my traffic fines, i) at the on-ramp onto the M1 near Melrose Arch late one Saturday evening, behind the wheel because Noisette had definitely had too much to drink, and without my driver's license, and j) "not having a letter from the American Consulate allowing me to drive on South Africa's roads."

Honestly, I'm not making this up. Looking at this long list I'm now thinking it's a miracle I ever got anything done while living in South Africa.

The funny thing is, as you can see from above, that the cops had plenty of reasons to stop me and hand out tickets for c), d), e), f), g), h), and i). But they never did, and I was always left off the hook easily. The only times they gave me a really hard time were the ones when I had done nothing wrong.

Which brings me back to my story. The same was the case with my friend in Alexandra that day. Her cop was a stubborn one. Twice she was told that she was being arrested and taken to jail because she failed to carry her passport with her, and twice she read the entire South African Road Traffic Act off her (my) sheet of paper, citing the section that states that your foreign license serves as a valid driving document as long as it's valid in its home country, is issued in one of South Africa's eleven national languages (meaning English - I doubt you'll find a foreign licensing office issuing anything in Xhosa or Sotho), and has a picture of you affixed to it.

Don't leave home without it!

Now, I have always boasted to you that I would have loved nothing more than being able to blog about a South African jail from the inside, so to speak, but I do not wish this fate on anyone else. Besides, I was totally lying. I would have absolutely shit my pants if I had ever been arrested for real.

I probably would have buckled right away and reached out for my glove compartment, in order to pull out the emergency stash of five R100 notes I kept there for just such an occasion. I would have offered that bribe after all, the bribe that I keep telling you you should never ever pay, and then I would have realized with horror that I had had to take that money out at the last car service - lest it be considered a generous tip by the well-meaning service technician cleaning up my car, yet another hazard of driving a car in South Africa - and had forgotten to put it back in.

Or, more likely, I would have thought the money was there and frantically searched for it, only to come up empty and be told by Noisette months later, during one of his visits to me in jail, that he had taken out the money ages ago to buy much-needed groceries (which in his case usually means chocolate) and forgotten to tell me. Oops!

Maybe I shouldn't have taken the threat of jail so lightly. My friend went on to tell me that asking for a passport during traffic stops has gotten to be a bit of an epidemic in Joburg lately. It was an acquaintance of hers who told her this - the one who had to part with a Rolex watch so as not to be arrested - and who has since been hired as a consultant to speak to American expats groups.

Okay - why did that never occur to me as a way to make a living? I mean other than earning $14.97 via Amazon Associates in a good month?

I could have totally made a killing peddling my how-not-to-pay-bribes know-how to wide-eyed newly-arrived foreigners. I could have mass-produced copies of the South African Road Traffic Act and laminated them and sold them after giving my speech to sell-out crowds.

I mean, who needs to write a book with such a good business model?

Instead, I've been spilling all my secrets here for free, with a complimentary copy of your get-out-of-jail card to boot.

Go print it now. I won't be telling you again. And if you've made use of my handy-dandy document already, you are now free to make a donation in gratitude:

Or, come to think of it, go LIKE my Facebook page. Nothing makes me happier than when I get new LIKES. It's practically like printing money.

May 22, 2013

Killer Instinct

I'm not a hunter. And, as your typical non-hunter, I pride myself in not killing anything that's alive. Living in peaceful harmony with all the creature of the Earth.  I could never hunt animals to kill them.

Rubbing my bottom raw on bouncy safari vehicles, ducking under low-hanging acacia branches, in dogged pursuit of any living thing to get in front of my camera? Yes. But kill an animal? No. Never.


Except, it turns out, when my home and hearth are attacked. 

Then I develop a killer instinct like nothing else. If you get squeamish about gory murder scenes, then you might not want to read on.

It was like that when the deer in Raleigh would eat all my daylilies the very morning their blossoms were bound to open, and it is like that now as I see my house literally riddled with holes by a swarm of vicious carpenter bees.

Yes, bees.

Never in my life had I heard of carpenter bees. True to their name, they get busy working on your house, wherever you might be so foolish as to have any wooden structure. With some drill- or saw-like instrument - not sure if it's their legs or their mouth - they are experts at manufacturing holes and tunnels big enough to lay their eggs in, busily converting our expensive real estate to dust.

Dust, I'm telling you.

Carpenter bee on the attack

There was nothing I could do about the deer back then, other than fuming the entire daylily flowering season and grumbling my disgusts to anyone who would listen. I didn't own a gun I could have done anything stupid with - though trust me, I felt like it - and I like to think that the very real problem of getting rid of a deer carcass would have awakened my practical instincts in time to prevent the murder. 

I've had enough trouble getting rid of carcasses of smaller creatures dragged to the doorstep by our cat.

I tried many remedies back then. Like spreading fox urine, for instance. But let me tell you the problem with fox urine: inevitably you get it on your hands or shoes while splattering it around, and then you have to live as a social outcast for quite some time. No one wants anything to do with a person smelling of fox urine.

I also tried mothballs, but the deer didn't seem to mind them much. All I'd get was a whiff of my grandparents' closet every time I went outside. I tried CDs tied to strings to somehow scare them with the reflection, I tried human hair from whenever I gave the boys a buzz-cut, I tried Cayenne pepper, and I tried all sorts of expensive sprays from the garden center, none of which, in the end, really worked. The only partial success I could claim came from taking a bar of Irish Spring soap, shredding it with my food processor attachment for grating carrots, and spreading it over and around the flowerbed in question. I can't remember who gave me this remedy, but it absolutely HAD to be Irish Spring, I was told. Somehow the smell of it was so overpowering that the deer couldn't smell the flowers anymore and failed to find them. It just didn't make for a very pretty looking flowerbed, what with all the green and white sprinkles all over it, and I have no idea what it did to the soil. It better welcomed some alkalinity! I remember Noisette giving me very strange looks whenever I'd be making new supplies of soap shavings in my kitchen, and I'd always give him one of those "don't ask" looks back.

But about those bees. Unlike the deer, they were causing some real problems. First of all, anybody approaching our front door invariably suffered from panic attacks when dive-bombed by those bees - they are big and fat, they are incredibly loud, and they fly in such an erratic way that you really can't predict their path to get out of the way. Our kids were constantly bumping into them. And one of them has a real phobia of insects in general, let alone ones that sting.

The other problem were the holes. Big, perfectly circular holes, as if drilled with a precision tool. In fact, it took me a while to realize that these weren't in fact holes made by human hands when putting together those wood columns. There were way more holes than might be needed for a reasonable amount of screws. 

And the sawdust was a dead giveaway.

Yes, sawdust. See for yourself. Our front porch looked like the floor of a regular sawmill.

I was determined to get rid of them.

First I decided I needed to gather more intelligence. To Collect proof of their criminal behavior. I pulled up a chair and watched those bees, for hours it seems.

There was a constant coming and going, and a high-pitched buzz in the air. And whenever one alighted on the entrance to a hole, you could literally see the sawdust flying.

My next step was to take legal action. In the sense of making sure they weren't by chance a protected species or in any way endangered. 

They weren't. 

My first weapon of choice was a can of Raid. Surely that would work like a charm. 

Except carpenter bees aren't fazed by a strong stream of concentrated poison whatsoever. It's really hard to hit them at all because they never really sit still, but even if you do score the occasional bullseye, they just carry on flying. All I got for my efforts was a dripping front porch and an empty can of wasp spray.

So I called the exterminator.

Surely they were going to get rid of them with all their fancy pest control schemes.

But even the exterminator was helpless. I paid a big check just to watch him stalk our front porch in a full-body suit and a large canister on his back, but the bees only seemed to be more numerous afterwards.

It must be the mouth. I mean, look at it, you can see it opening, ready to chomp down.
The stuff of nightmares, actually, like a vampire ready to strike, don't you think?

I was running out of options, but I had one more card up my sleeve. I decided to go online

Yes, Google, my trusted friend, came through in the hour of need. 

The best weapon for close combat with carpenter bees, I learned, was a badminton racket.

I immediately sensed the brilliance of this approach. A fly swatter of sorts, just a lot bigger and stronger, did seem to hold an entirely new sense of promise.

And you know what? I went to town with that badminton racket. Whenever the sun warmed up our front porch, a sure sign the carpenter bees would come buzzing soon, I'd stealthily approach, lay in wait, and whack that racket with such a vengeance that the bees were stunned right out of mid-air, with a glorious ping sound indicating each hit, to be finished off with a swift step if necessary. I got to leaving the badminton racket parked by the front door, and anybody passing by would have to take a few swings before being allowed in the house. 

Typical scene outside our front door during the
last few weeks
It's a good thing bee carcasses are easier to get rid of than deer carcasses. The bees kept on coming, and we kept on eliminating them.

In the end, the pest control guy was the one to finish them off by dusting the nests with a poisonous powder. You know, with one of those bulb things you used to suck the mucus from our baby's nose. I now have white dust all over the front porch from where the bees whirled it to after getting it on their wings.

The porch is now eerily quiet.

I kind of miss the buzzing. And the hunting. I did love the act of hunting down my prey.

You might not call me a hunter, but you'd be perfectly in your rights to call me a hypocrite.

May 20, 2013

White Wedding

I've just discovered a gem that brought tears of laughter (and a few of regret) to my eyes.

If you want to understand South Africa and its various racial groups and be thoroughly entertained in the process, the absolute best way is to watch White Wedding. You can get it on Amazon (see insert) and it's also available on Netflix (if you'd like to get Netflix in South Africa, read this article).

Whatever misgivings you might have about South Africa and its future, you will come away from this movie with pure delight in the Rainbow Nation, in its many cultures, and in the way they intersect with each other. If you've ever lived in South Africa, you'll be telling your TV not once but repeatedly that "that's exactly how it is!"

[Spoiler alert: I don't think I'm giving away much as the end is fairly predictable, but if you're going to watch it and don't want any plot lines, you might want to stop reading here].


The plot is perhaps rather typical romantic comedy material, but with a good helping of the two things I love most about South Africa: The sweeping landscapes, and the quirky sense of humor.

The story revolves around a road trip a soon-to-be-married man undertakes from Durban to Cape Town where he is to meet his Xhosa bride. He is accompanied by his best man and later joined by a white Englishwoman hitching a ride, and of course things end up going awfully wrong, from getting lost somewhere in the Eastern Cape to crashing in a ditch and almost being lynched by a group of Boers. The thing is, none of this seems contrived. When they get to a road sign with arrows to the next town pointing in both directions, you nod knowingly. That's Africa. When they are made to wait the whole night for the grandma they're supposed to pick up, only to be told next morning that she won't be coming but is sending a goat with you instead, you sigh. You've been on exasperating errands just like that, driving through townships and waiting for people who weren't there, and there were always plenty of goats (though, I admit, not IN my car). When the money for the wedding dress hasn't arrived although it was transferred days ago, you will cry out Eish in sympathy. Been there, done that.

What's done very well is the blending of all the different languages - Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, and English - with the necessary subtitles. I was surprised how much Zulu and Afrikaans I could actually pick up, though I admit in the case of Zulu that is because it is so heavily interspersed with English expressions. In fact, the wealth of languages (no less than eleven official ones) and resulting cultural diversity is one of the true gems of life in South Africa. Diversity is such an overused term here, sometimes standing in as the politically correct cover-up for something more sinister, but as I was watching White Wedding I realized that South Africa is one of the few places where the true value of cultural and racial diversity is on everyday display. Much like the U.S., South Africa is an immigrant's country, but unlike the U.S., it's no melting pot. Second generation Americans typically sound very much the same as everyone else, but in South Africa, you get a plethora of different English accents, cultivated over generations, depending on whether you're talking to a Cape Coloured or an Indian from Durban, for instance.

Making fun of everyone's cultural quirks makes for a lot of good late night comedy. Google Trevor Noah and you will know what I mean.

But first, watch White Wedding.

May 14, 2013

What am I? One Third Culture Kid's View

I don't know how parents had meaningful conversations with their children before the advent of motor vehicles. It is my firm belief that if you want to discuss anything of import, or weasel any information out of your child, you'll have to be in a car with them. There is something in the aura of a car that loosens the tongue. I once had an entire "the birds and the bees" talk with a younger version of Zax on the way to soccer practice.

So Noisette had the following conversation with Sunshine on the way home from gymnastics the other day:

Sunshine: "Dad, am I a German or an American?"

Noisette: "Well, it's a unique situation. You are both. You were born in the United States and this makes you an American. But Mom and I are of German descent, and that also makes you a German. Therefore you have both passports."

Noisette, as an afterthought: "My guess is in the deepest of your heart you are an American."

Sunshine, hesitating only the tiniest fraction: "No, in the deepest of my heart I will always be a South African."

I'm not sure if this warms my heart of or it breaks my heart, but either way it's a powerful sentiment. And it's a sentiment you better reckon with when embarking on the adventures of expat life.

Because whether you like it or not you will be fiddling with matters in the deepest heart of your child or children. (Leaving aside, for the moment, the matters in your own deepest heart).

A touch of three cultures

For all the great stuff expat life can bring you - the honeymoon-like feeling of everything being new and beautiful when first arriving in a new place, exotic travel opportunities, new foods to add to your palate, paid annual home leave, great weather, domestic help, multilingual kids, friends all over the world - it also comes with a risk.

The risk that nothing will ever feel the same afterwards.

Considering that life is full of risks in any case, I consider it a risk worth taking. But just know that you're not only taking it on for yourself. Your kids will be forever changed by it too.

This brings me to the topic of Third Culture Kids or, for short, TCKs.

I haven't really talked much about TCKs on this blog. The reason, I think, is that I don't love that term. It's meant to describe children - people really - who've spent a part or all of their developmental years growing up outside of their parents' culture. Who pick up bits and pieces of each culture but don't ever acquire full ownership of any of them. Who often have more in common with other TCKs, regardless where they've lived, than with other people from their passport country. Who, for all the ease they may move around the world with, often struggle to adjust back to life in their home country after Repatriation.

But why Third? Why not Second? And what does that make of our kids who've spent their entire lives outside of Noisette's and my culture but then added on Asia and Africa at various times? Are they Fourth and Fifth Culture Kids? Maybe I'm just being too literal, but I still don't like that term. Global nomad better captures it for me. Someone who's at home everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

Because whatever you call us, we all struggle with the question of where home is.

Remember how I wondered, at the end of Where is Home?, how our kids might answer that question one day? After showing you a video with a collection of interviews they did with other TCKs?

What I didn't expect is that they'd already be so sure of their answer, in their "deepest heart."

And that the answer might be South Africa - one of the countries we don't actually have any passports for.

I suspect this might change again over time, but at least for the moment Sunshine seems to be quite sure.

What I also didn't realize is the fact that the answer most likely will be different for all of our children, depending on how old they were when we lived in a place, what kinds of friends they made there, and really just their overall personalities.

Will this put us on four different continents in the future?

By the way, I will now embark on reading the book Third Culture Kids, which comes highly recommended by virtually everyone in the expat community. So that I can more competently answer the question of what "third" culture really means. I'm hoping it will answer many more questions. Stay tuned!

May 5, 2013

Of Guns, Manhunts, and Other American Pursuits

Most expats will agree that the best time to tell people about another country is during the first few months you've moved there, when your capacity to see the new and different is the greatest and the freshness hasn't worn off.

It's no different when you're moving back home. If not exactly new, everything still registers as different from before, and you're driven to dig deeper to fully grasp the psyche of your new surroundings. In my case, this prompted me to write about shopping, about the weather, and about church and religion soon after we arrived in Tennessee.

But so far I've stayed away from the gun issue. Even though of course it's the one glaring difference between the U.S. and most other countries, and one that the newly arrived expat/repat can't fail to notice.

I stayed away from it because it's just too touchy a subject.

Except when your neighborhood has been on lockdown for an entire night, with helicopters circling overhead to assist  scores of police in a manhunt for a guy who is believed to have murdered his wife practically nextdoor and is now prowling the woods in a ski mask with a quiver of arrows on his back.

When all that happens to you, you may be forgiven to want to talk about guns.

And I warn you that I will talk about them. You may not like my opinion, but I'll say it anyway. I have no boss to please, no lobby group to kowtow to, no constituents who'll make angry calls to me. The only constituents I care about are my husband and children, and it is for their sake and everybody else's spouses and children that these things must be said. I know that I'll be preaching to the choir, as those of you who consider yourself gun rights supporters will probably have stopped reading by now. But even if I can just build a tiny spark of momentum for what I believe must change, then I'll consider it worth it.

Call me a hypocrite for allowing such realistic looking toy guns
in my house, but the irony is that they are from South Africa -
in America, it's easier to go and purchase a real gun than a
real-looking toy gun, due to toy gun regulations.

To get on with my story, since I promised you a manhunt: Just days after the nation was gripped by the terror at the Boston Marathon and the ensuing manhunt to kill and capture the perpetrators, we had our very own manhunt right here in Brentwood, TN. Right here in our very own gated community where people move to get away from those kinds of things happening. Consider the irony, if you will, of us having just moved away from one of the most dangerous cities in the world, as some will have you believe, to the relative safety of American suburbia.

It was a Sunday night. We were all watching Lincoln, the movie, and apparently were so enthralled by it that we failed to take note of the helicopters hovering overhead, and the phone messages beeping in the background. It's a good thing we have teenagers in the family who can't go to bed without checking their phones first, and so we learned, while scanning about twenty group messages sent in the preceding hours, that a neighbor who had just shot and killed his wife in their home had been on the loose for hours evading the police. The two-year old daughter was found, unharmed, in the house and taken away. All residents were urged, needless to say, to stay in their homes and lock all their doors. When the name of the suspect was released, it sounded familiar, but I couldn't place it at first. I was sure it was just a coincidence. And then it suddenly hit me. This was our  new orthodontist's last name. Meaning that it was her who had been killed.

I didn't know her well. We had only been at her office twice, once to have everyone assessed, and the next time for Impatience to get her braces in. But the thing is, once you know someone who these bad things happen to, it's different. It's more personal. She was a super nice woman, very successful to boot, young and good looking, with a beautiful family judging by the picture on her desk. That just goes to show how little we really ever know about other people. The husband, from what is now coming to light, had apparently acted increasingly strange over the last few months, being spotted with a ski mask creeping along ravines - we are on a golf course, not a military obstacle course - on several occasions and having been arrested at least once for drunk driving.

It is such a tragedy. And it was far more excitement in our quiet neighborhood than I can wish for ever again. I'm just grateful we were at home with our kids and not out with them home alone, as we had been the previous night. In the end, the man surrendered to police early the next morning, and we were free to move on with our lives again.

Except the one who didn't survive.

So, about those guns. He had one in his home, of course, and, as happens far too often, used it to kill his wife. Whether premeditated or in a rage, no one knows, although it is hard to imagine that he would just let his little girl watch and then leave her alone if he had planned this ahead. But then the whole thing is hard to imagine. While the gun in the house might strike you as unusual if you're coming from another country, it is of course a very common occurrence here in the United States. Everyone is entitled to own one, or an entire arsenal for that matter. There are different rules as to how openly or concealed you can carry your gun around with you, depending on which state you reside in, and they are prohibited in certain places, but as to your right to keep one in your very own home, that can't be infringed upon. It's right there in that fabled Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Or, I should say, it can be interpreted to be in there, because the language in it isn't as clear as one might wish. It all might come down to a comma, quite frankly. The semantics of the second amendment has spawned many a legal essay.

Anyway, ever since the Newtown shooting last December, the American gun debate has been taken up with renewed vigor, culminating not long ago in the defeat of a proposed law to tighten background checks, among other things.

That is where the substance of the debate becomes quite incomprehensible to the outsider. What argument could ever be made against requiring that people's backgrounds are checked thoroughly to make sure they won't be a danger to anyone, before letting them walk away with such a potentially deadly instrument, you might ask?

Apparently, many arguments. Most of them driven by the fear that once on the slippery slope of any kind of closer scrutiny of people's lives, we will soon find ourselves on the path to a totalitarian government. We already got a Socialist who wasn't even born here leading it. And which to defend ourselves against is why we need to accumulate all those weapons in the first place. That's what it says in the Second Amendment, right?

Please excuse my sarcasm. I should stop watching the Daily Show.

Perhaps I'm just one of those liberal types who doesn't understand about guns. But I should tell you that I did grow up with a gun in our house. As unlikely as that was - and still is - in Germany, my father, by virtue of working in a prison - though as a teacher - was issued a permit for a handgun. I was very impressed by this in a Scout/Atticus Finch sort of way, as I probably didn't know anyone who struck you as less likely than my father to aim a gun at anything. But he could shoot. I vividly remember the day he finally gave in to my incessant begging and took me target shooting, behind the barn at the vacation home we'd started going to when I was about twelve years old.

I absolutely loved it. Shooting at - and, especially, hitting - a target is an exhilarating feeling that nothing else comes quite close to. It is really cool. I'm pretty competitive, and if you give me something to shoot with, I want to hit something. Bow and arrow, rifle, clay pigeons, laser tag - I've tried a little bit of all of that and loved it every time. (The only kind of shooting I really suck at is when I play Call of Duty against one of my sons).

If I'd grown up in America, there is a good chance guns might have become a hobby of mine.

But none of that takes away the fact that they are, of course, quite dangerous. Can we all agree on that? Guns. Are. Dangerous. And can often be deadly.

The analogy lies in another very deadly instrument, albeit one with a very different purpose. I am speaking, of course, of the motor vehicle.

Do we not all agree to submit ourselves, quite voluntarily, to a whole host of rules so that we can be permitted to steer one? From having to obtain a license to purchasing costly insurance, from cumbersome safety devices to regular inspections, from a minimum age to steep penalties associated with any misuse that could potentially endanger others? And, lo and behold, we register it, putting a big fat license plate on it for the world to see so that police can track us should we behave with it in any potentially harmful manner. A license plate that can be traced right back to the owner.

All this bother and intrusion we accept. Because it has been proven to save lives.

Not everyone's life, of course. Accidents happen, and misuse happens, and recklessness happens. But it happens less often because there are rules. And when we see any new dangers contributing to higher casualties, like texting while driving, we come up with new, stricter rules. Just in the name of saving a few more people from harm.

The same parallels exist in other areas. There are a gazillion safety standards for the workplace, for baby cribs and toys, for ladders, for drugs, for paints, for pretty much anything you can think of.

Incredibly, guns are the exception. The American gun debate has not followed the pattern of rules and regulations to preserve lives. Every time a new rule is proposed, however watered-down and weak it might be, and however common-sense it would be considered in every single other country on this Earth, what's known here as "the gun lobby" rears its head in an uproar and somehow manages to shoot it down.

The mantra of the pro-gun crowd is that bad people will always get guns. Ergo, no need to regulate the good people with guns or look into their backgrounds. If the good people will always behave responsibly, and the bad people will disregard rules anyway, why bother with rules? They won't work!

Well, I don't know about you, but to me that line of reasoning is a bit, well, stupid. Why do we bother with police, then? If the good people will always behave well and the bad people will do their bad thing anyway, regardless, why not just save a whole lot of money by no longer sending out any police patrols? It's like throwing out our entire history of human civilization and, yes, rules of living together peaceably. It also totally disregards the entire matter of accidents.

Quite frankly, I don't know why this "gun lobby" is so strong and only seems to grow in influence. Yes, there are some powerful interests involved, but aren't there enough voters out there who are appalled at the innocent lives lost to insist that our politicians do something about it?

It's not like we aren't willing to respond swiftly when innocent lives are lost. Just look at what happens when there is a terrorist attack. Everything in our power is mobilized to deal with the current threat, like the Boston bombings, and we seem to be quite willing to talk about suspending a few rights here and there in order to prevent such threats in the future. Freedom of speech? Freedom of religion? Freedom against searches? Fifth Amendment? Nah. They're all in the constitution, that's true, but not really sacrosanct. Except, of course, the Second Amendment. That one IS sacrosanct. As Jon Stewart so aptly observed, "God help us if the Muslims ever decide to form a well-regulated militia; then we'll have no way to stop them."

And while we're on Jon Stewart or rather the Daily Show, you have to watch this series on Australia and why you absolutely can't compare its success with gun control to the United States, because of course there are no parallels at all:

It's  hard to believe that anything will ever change in a country so obsessed with guns, and where the balance between gun owners' rights and gun victims' rights is so thoroughly tilted towards the gun owners. Once again, many Americans won't even agree with me in this assessment, but to anyone looking in from the outside this is as crystal clear as the air above Joburg after a rainstorm.

I do have hope. Look at the tobacco industry and how the tide finally turned against it, how people finally didn't buy its lies and false statistics anymore, how it was forced to acknowledge it was responsible for a health problem.

But it won't happen anytime soon in the case of guns. A lot more innocent people will have to die before our collective disgust will rise to the level needed to really do something about it.

What will YOU do about it?

You could start by sharing this post. I won't even hold a gun
to your head to make you do it.