Guns are Why Americans Can’t Have Fun

Hi Joel,

Have you seen this video?

It’s a promotion from 2013 for the re-opening of the Rijkmuseum in Amsterdam. Actors enter a mall and create a live version of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. It’s part social experiment, part art lesson, part advertising.

It’s what we can’t do in the US because of guns.

Can you imagine something like this here? If some hero didn’t step forward and shoot the thief, we’d be lucky. The presence of men openly carrying arms was probably enough to tip off the Dutch shoppers that this wasn’t real. In the US, it’s very hard to tell the difference between replica and real weapons.

But, beyond that, we’re all on edge, waiting for the next mall/football stadium/school/church/workplace/concert/charity softball game shooting. In workplace mass shooting trainings, we learn to keep an eye out for odd behavior: the student wearing a trenchcoat on a perfectly sunny day, the man sitting alone in his car for too long. We learn to be suspicious of anyone different and anything out of the ordinary. Being on constant alert wears us down–and we may start to resent the people who make us feel worried about their presence. I find myself unfairly angry at the student in the trenchcoat or the man in the car. We enter public spaces and and sit by the back exit–the one that opens from the inside but not the outside. We’re always ready to go.

As fun as this video was to watch, it made me nervous the whole time–and I knew what was going on. The Dutch audience mostly cheers and smiles, recognizing one of their national treasures brought to life. But, if in the US, it would only highlight one of our national tragedies: that guns are robbing us of our community spaces.


PS. If readers haven’t checked out Joel’s writing on this topic in The Week, they should!


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