Sunday, June 29, 2008

Why is America so Violent? How Violent is America?

A few years ago, my wife-to-be at the time, Louella, and I were vacationing in France. We were visiting Avignon. On a beautiful spring day, we walked across the bridge to the town on the other side of the river that borders the city. We had no destination in mind but were just exploring. We happened to come across a regional trade fair set up in a large tent. We were not on a schedule and the admission was cheap, so we went in. Inside there were probably 50 or more vendors exhibiting their products and giving away samples: wines, cheeses, sausages, spice cakes and other goodies, all for free. It turned out to be a delightful day and was one of those things you just accidentally stumble upon, that make a trip memorable.

Many of the booths were representing vineyards and the vendors were offering wine tastings. Each had several wines and were generous with their samples. We spent a couple hours slowly making our way around the tent, visiting the exhibitors. Since the vendors were there for the day, they seemed to be in no hurry and were eager to engage in conversation and tell us about their vineyards and products. We felt like we were really getting to know the people and were having an experience that cannot be captured by simply visiting the tourist sites.

Many of the exhibitors spoke some English, while some of them were quite fluent. They wanted to know where in America we were from; what we did for a living and our impressions of France. Many of them had questions about life in America and American culture. One delightful man, after conversation about other things, asked me a question I did not know how to answer. Imitating a double holster quick draw, and accompanied by verbal sound effects, he asked, "Why America so violent a country?" What could I say?

How violent is America? How do we stack up in gun deaths compared to the rest of the world?

We are the 8th most deadly country in the world.

Below is a list of the 32 most deadliest countries. I ask you to look at those that are more deadly than the US: South Africa, a nation that has had violence rooted in the apartheid system and tribal conflict. Columbia, home of the drug cartels and drug wars. Guatemala. Paraguay. Zimbabwe! How does it feel to be ranked with third world dictatorships and with poor countries wracked by wars and rebellions?

Among industrialized Democracies, we are the most violent. The majority of European democracies don't even make the list. England, France, or Italy are not in the top 32. The U.S. has a rate of 3.6 gun deaths per 100,000, while Germany has a rate of 0.46. This is 1/7 that of the U.S. Spain's rate is 0.25, which is 1/14 that of the U.S. What is the reason that we are 14 times more deadly than Spain? It seems we just accept that is the kind of country we live in. Most civilized nations of the world would find our gun death rate unacceptable. I am embarrassed that my country is such a violent, deadly nation. We should not be happy about this statistic. Below are the rankings.

Firearm Homicide Rates per 100,000 people.
#1 South Africa: 74.5748
#2 Colombia: 51.7683
#3 Thailand: 33.0016
#4 Guatemala: 18.5
#5 Paraguay: 7.3508
#6 Zimbabwe: 4.746
#7 Mexico: 3.6622
#8 United States: 3.6
#9 Belarus: 3.31
#10 Barbados: 2.9963
#11 Uruguay: 2.5172
#12 Lithuania: 2.2463
#13 Slovakia: 2.1659
#14 Côte d'Ivoire: 2.068
#15 Estonia: 1.534
#16 Macedonia, Republic of: 1.2802
#17 Latvia: 1.2648
#18 Portugal: 0.8488
#19 Bulgaria: 0.7714
#20 Slovenia: 0.6036
#21 Germany: 0.4672
#22 Moldova: 0.4671
#23 Hungary: 0.44
#24 Poland: 0.4289
#25 Ukraine: 0.3495
#26 Australia: 0.3073
#27 Czech Republic: 0.2624
#28 Spain: 0.2456
#29 Azerbaijan: 0.2236
#30 New Zealand: 0.1827
#31 Chile: 0.1776
#32 Singapore: 0.0249

This list is from the website

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  1. Interesting post, Rod. I really don't have an answer as to why we are so high on that ignoble list. It would be interesting to see how gun homicides broken down into categories.

  2. I think there is an American sense of destiny and entitlement that unfortunately transmutes itself into a justification for violence sometimes.

    BTW, I'm Mary Kitt-Neel. I had to check your profile to see if we're related. I have 42 first cousins, most of whom live in and around Davidson County. But you can breathe easy: it appears you don't have me for a relative! :)