wrote about the strict gun laws in Greece though apparently people are allowed to carry guns if they have passed all of of the requirements. Did this guy pass? Judging by his t- shirt, he shouldn't have. I happened to have seen him show a card to the waiter and noticed that he was wearing something strapped to his leg. What's your guess as to what it was? If you guessed a gun, you would be close. And further, what other offensive messages does this shirt send? The word c***, used on this shirt, is one I have been called often by the extremists who read my blog. They must think they are being "cute." Or maybe they actually abuse their spouses or partners and this is a message to them. Don't mess with me. I have a gun and I'll use it. And, of course, October is Domestic Abuse Awareness month.
And we wonder why people from other countries sometimes don't like Americans.
So why wear a gun around in Greece? I asked our Greek tour guide about crime in Greece. He said there was not much. From this article, it looks like some crimes have increased and some of the increase due to the severe economic problems in the country. Certainly there are not daily shootings. Those are rare to none. We heard only a few sirens while in Athens and didn't notice any particular problems. We never felt unsafe though we took the usual precautions of keeping our money and credit cards in places difficult to steal. Our experience was that the local Greek people were just as apt to help us find anything that could have been stolen as to steal something from us.
Let me provide you with a few examples and photos. A cafe owner not only served us a coffee while we were traveling but he also hopped on his motor bike to get some spices for us to smell at the request of our tour guide. And when he returned, he gave us all some figs at no cost to himself and further, hopped again on the motor bike to get us more figs, grapes and other Greek food grown obviously on a farm close by to his town. His photo is on the right. Or there's the monk who came out of the Philosofos Monastery built into the cliffside in the Lousios Gorge, where we hiked one day, who greeted us in English and asked where we came from. He told us to enjoy our hike and to please come back to visit the beautiful small church where he must spend a lot of time by himself contemplating the world through the eyes of an Ascetic. It is pictured below. We hiked to a small hidden "secret school" and church where Greek people kept up the tradition of their language and culture during the Turkish occupation. To say it was an amazing experience does not do justice to the place.
And then the woman who stopped us on the narrow street of a small town in which we stopped on our way to the Philosofos Monastery - she thought we were too cold because we had short sleeves on. It was a warm day. Luckily for us, her grandson was along for the walk and did some interpreting for us. We had quite the conversation after which she invited us to her home. No worries about strange Americans for her. She is on the left, below. Her name was Maria- Yaya Maria. And then there was the guy wearing a speedo who shouldn't have been. We have a photo but I will not post it here. Although, it really can't be any more offensive than the t-shirt, above.
But of course, I returned to an America that just went through a stupid and dangerous exercise in power and control instigated by the extremists in the Republican party. It did not go unnoticed by the Greeks who wrote about the American hostage taking government shutdown situation with disparaging remarks. Our Greek tour guide, very articulate and curious about what was going on, asked lots of questions of us. He simply could not understand that a small group of extremists in the Republican party would stoop to the possibility that the entire world's economy would go off the cliff over their ideological agenda. Our guide was very proud of America after we elected a Black President. He told us that changed his whole opinion of Americans. And that was true of many Greeks. They celebrated the election of Barack Obama and hoped for the change that his election represented. And then the changes didn't happen. Why not, he wanted to know? We shared our own views of this with him and all he could do was shake his head in amazement. Why can't this change happen? We tried to explain how the extremists in our country hate President Obama so much that they also promote talk of insurrectionism and use their pro gun views to ramp up fear of gun confiscation. Thus the t-shirt worn by the man above. These folks are proud of their minority views and proud to promote potential violence while carrying guns to prove it. Who needs this when one can look out of a hotel room in Naufplion and gaze at the Bourtsi ( below)?
In America, people carry guns openly to prove some sort of point which escapes most people. So we have a bunch of gun nuts in Texas showing up with their holstered and strapped on guns outside of the Alamo. What's their point? They would be better off carrying the worry beads that Greek men carry to keep themselves from the daily challenges presented to all of us. Who needs a gun? But let's find out from the article:
“A rifle on our back is part of our everyday life, just like a cellphone is part of our everyday life,” said Ms. Pena, 48, who manages her husband’s dental practice in South Texas.I am really trying to picture my dentist cleaning my teeth with an AR-15 strapped to his back. This is not normal. This is stupid and dangerous. This is not the real world; it is a made-up paranoid and fearful world brought to us by the corporate gun lobby and the people they have convinced of their ludicrous rhetoric. This is not how most other people live their daily lives and it is not normal. Cell phones are not designed to kill another person and are used with better service all over the world actually than we have in our developed country. But I digress.
Why can't the change that needs to happen to save lives and keep our communities safe from gun violence happen? It's time for more honest evaluation about this so that we can deal with the facts on the ground. So back at home in Minnesota, we tried to pass common sense gun laws during the last legislative session. This great article was written by two professors who have analyzed what happened in Minnesota's legislature regarding gun violence prevention bills last session. From the article:
When it comes to leading, our leaders need to actually lead. It is not leading to fail to deal with an issue staring us in the face, knowing that passing some laws could change the conversation about the issue of gun violence. Not only could new measures save lives, which is perfectly obvious, but discussing the issue as it should be discussed, rationally and with the facts, could make a difference in how we deal with the issue of gun violence prevention. This discussion doesn't need to happen in other countries. Why not? Because gun violence is such a small problem to them, it just seems to make common sense to deal with it when it happens to prevent more of it. But we live in America where the corporate gun lobby has more influence than the majority of Americans.The absence of any critical mass of minority legislators in St. Paul makes it significantly easier for DFL leaders to brush aside the issue of gun violence — which is exactly what they did last session. They treated the issue as an annoyance, not a priority.A state-to-state comparison also shows that the role of top leadership on this issue is critical. Both Colorado and Maryland benefited from strong leaders at the top who showed passion and commitment on the issue of gun-violence prevention. Governors John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Martin O’Malley of Maryland defined this as a top priority. Hickenlooper made the issue a personal cause. Colorado’s Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader both went to the mat to achieve the changes they believed in. The leaders in Maryland and Colorado also demonstrated political savvy and strength in holding their caucuses together on crucial votes.In contrast, Minnesota’s Democratic leadership behaved timidly at best. Gov. Mark Dayton said as little as possible and did nothing at all on the gun-violence issue. The word went out that the budget was his priority. Colorado and Maryland also passed budgets last spring, but they managed to do many other things as well.
As long as American men, for it is mostly men, walk around in their own country and in foreign countries, wearing t- shirts like the one in my photo, above, we will have to fight about something that doesn't need or want a fight. This is not about rights. This is about lives. The offensive t- shirt, worn by the American traveler on the pristine and beautiful Greek island of Hydra, is a symbol of who we have become in America. This man represents a very small minority of extremists who believe that swaggering around with guns openly holstered, for it appeared that he was carrying his gun, makes them important. Don't mess with me, it says. I will take you out with one false move. This is one ugly American.
I choose to remember my trip with the many sites that we visited and with the amazing hospitality of the Greeks where carrying a gun just does not make any sense. I will remember the Taverna owner who flagged us down as we passed by his place to see if it was open for lunch and turned around on the road, not sure if it was. He waved his arms and then spoke with our Greek tour guide, who was driving, to ask if we were lost. When our guide said all we wanted was to know was if we could come in to eat, he welcomed us in and gave us a wonderful meal with a complimentary dessert. This happened wherever we went. Shop and cafe owners wanted us to enjoy our meal and our experience. They were very open to us and almost always provided us with complimentary desserts or other food. These were the simple folks we found all over Greece. Their government has their own problems and their economy is in terrible shape. In the face of that, violence is not the answer. Hospitality and friendliness is the answer. Sitting down over an Ouzo, a beer, a Greek coffee, a Greek salad, Baklava, or other wonderful Greek treats, just makes for a more peaceful society.
Traveling in other countries is mind expanding and offers a different perspective. It helps to wrap one's mind about who we are and what is important. Greece was at the center of ideas about Democracy and host to one of the earliest civilized people. Mycenae reminds us that we are just here for a while and that violence is not the answer. I wrote about this in my post about gun laws in Greece. As I know and many others in America, lives can be taken instantly and violently by people with guns who are angry, depressed, mentally ill, abusive, on drugs or alcohol, etc. It doesn't have to be this way. Traveling in other countries shows us how this can work. America is not perfect. Nor are the many other countries in the world. We all have our own problems. But the culture of gun violence is still unique to America. It's time for the change we need for we know we are better than this.
|The plain of Argos from ancient Mycenae.|
Below are some more photos from my trip.
|Monastery at the Byzantine city of Mistras|
|Erecthheon on the Acropolis|