It’s a perfect Indian summer day here on the Sunshine Coast. Baby blue skies, summery warm in the sun and cool enough to wear a sweater in the shade. Camp was sitting at our usual table on the patio, alone except for a couple of locals. He was immersed in the latest news and about to share his insights with me.
“Fifty nine dead, over five hundred wounded, the worst massacre in the USA which is saying a lot. One crazy loner, a retired accountant, armed with a truckload of automatic assault rifles is responsible. When are the Americans going to realize that guns and crazy people don’t mix. In fact guns do not belong in glove compartments, purses, pack pockets, pick-up trucks, hotel rooms, houses and apartments.”
I sat down and signalled to Vicky for a couple of pints. “Camp, you’re preaching to the choir. I grew up in country that is armed to the teeth, where every able bodied male that has served in the Swiss military has a semiautomatic rifle and ammo stored at home. I looked it up. Switzerland has about 47 guns per 100 residents while the US has 89 guns and Yemen 55. Yet in Switzerland gun ownership comes with a lot of education and gun crimes are unusual. In the US 33’000 people died due to gunshot wounds in 2015.”
“People with guns kill other people,” Camp said. “It’s as simple as that. They should outlaw all handguns, automatic rifles and assault weapons. Hunting rifles only with background checks. Gun control and a buyback of prohibited firearms in Australia after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, which left 35 people dead, stopped mass shootings and plunged gun death by 72%.”
“You obviously have done your research Camp. You need to watch Jim Jeffries u-tube video about gun protection. He says it all.”
We solemnly sipped our beers, gazing out at the tranquil harbour spread out before us. Hard to imagine what snaps somebodies mind to where they become a harbinger of death and mayhem. “Only humans murder humans and only humans know how to hate and loathe,” I said.
“On the other hand only humans know love and show kindness to strangers and only humans display compassion,” Camp countered.
“Yeah, but we always find ways to hurt one another,” It’s a miracle that we made it this far as a species.
“I want to change the subject to something closer to home and equally troubling. Muriel and I went to see a film adaption of Richard Wagamese’s novel,: ‘Indian Horse’ at the Vancouver film festival on Monday. The story follows the life of Saul Indian Horse, who was taken away from his Ojibwa family and placed in a Catholic residential school where he was not allowed to speak his language. As was the directive he was denied his Indigenous heritage as he witnesses abuse. He finds escape in hockey, where his talent helps him escape the nightmarish school and he eventually became a professional player. However, the traumatic experiences of the past continue to haunt him and he is also constantly belittled and taunted for being native. It’s a fantastic film and profoundly moving, about a very sad chapter in Canadian History. We really have not come to terms with the fact that we are still racist and prejudiced and that we constantly revise the true history.”
“It all comes down to a lack of education,” I offered.
“Yes, but it is us, the colonizers, who are lacking the education, not them,” Camp said. “Treating them as victims rather than as equals and part of our national family does not improve their lot in life. If you have a chance, go watch this movie.”
“Yeah, when we were in Mexico last year and I brought up the disappearance of the 43 students in Guerrero to Carlos, my language teacher, he asked me about the 1500 indigenous woman missing or killed in Canada.”
“We have a lot to learn,” Camp said. I looked at the calm waters of Howe Sound and wondered how much mystery lurks just below the surface and is hidden from view, a good metaphor for the way we view our collective history. “We can shape the future and we can revise the past but we cannot escape the present,” I mumbled, feeling a bit confused.
“You’re wiser than a tree full of owls,” Camp remarked with a lopsided grin. “And presently my mug is empty which calls for a refill I believe.”
“Two pints coming up,” Vicky acknowledged our hand signals.