I was in the United States last week when 19 children and two teachers were killed in their classroom in Texas, in the latest mass shooting in this crazy country.
I watched in horror as the news filtered through across the main news channels. Later that evening, as I attended a dinner with colleagues attending the Alltech ONE conference in Lexington, Kentucky,
I thought it best not to talk about it because it is one of the many divisive culture wars which defines the United States – that of gun ownership.
This is a country where you have to watch your manners and where our casual use of the “F” word can be taken really badly by some (the same goes for many places, when it comes to bad language, but in the US it’s a big no-no in certain company).
On the coach ride to the dinner venue, I was chatting to an American colleague and I casually observed how another mutual colleague had become a very vocal anti-vaxer.
My friend immediately retorted that he hadn’t been vaccinated, either, and the conversation became quite awkward. It was then I knew it best not to make reference to what was happening in Texas for the rest of the evening.
The US is divided down the middle along political lines.You don’t have to ask any politically interested American who they vote for; you can just ask them about gun ownership or vaccines to know their political affiliation.
Nothing new there, but it seemed to me, on my latest visit last week, that the division has become wider and deeper; splitting families and friends.
That is not, of course, to paint the whole country and its people with one brush.
And some of the American speakers at the ONE conference (including the founder and CEO of “not impossible labs” Mick Ebeling and blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer) left the audience breathless with their stories of innovation and resilience.
You should Google both to read more about their achievements and positive influences.Both of them made me feel pretty useless on the one hand, but inspired on the other that we can all do better by ourselves and the people around us.
In fact, Ebeling entertainingly made the point that before things became possible, they were once impossible! “Impossible is a fallacy,” he said.
Former Unilever CEO and co-author of “Net Positive”, Paul Polman, told the conference: “The planet is 4.6bn years old. If we scaled that down to 46 years, human beings have only been around for four hours, the industrial revolution only started one minute ago and in that minute, we have cut down 50% of the world’s forests.”
The conference heard from farmers and environmentalists collectively looking for workable solutions to the climate emergency and food supply chain challenges.
It is a classic reminder of how collaboration, rather than confrontation, is the only road to success in any walk of life.
Tragically, however, when it comes to cultural differences not only in the US but even here in Europe, we choose confrontation and confirmation bias rather than collaboration and consensus.
And when it comes to gun crime, in particular, it seems that not even last week’s horrific events in Texas can bring about uniting a country - which could now easily be renamed the ‘Disunited States of America’. ?
GAA officials, who still believe in the provincial system, following the Leinster and Munster football finals; “That went well. Do you think that went well? I think that went well.”