The United States and South Africa have curiously congruent histories. The U.S., poisoned by slavery, went to war to preserve national unity, yet emerged divided by racism and segregation. South Africa, poisoned by apartheid, avoided war by letting its deposed masters keep their loot, but they quickly rebuilt an aparthied of gated communities. Today, both have fear-driven populations isolated behind self-imposed walls who turn to guns for an illusion of safety.
Yet how comprehend Olympic sprinter, Oscar Pistorius, pouring rifle fire through his own closed bathroom door, and although the only other resident of his apartment was his girlfriend, later claiming to have no idea who was behind that door. His plunge from national hero to accused murderer is eerily echoed by the arrest of his brother, Carl, also for murder of a woman. American journalist, Charlene Hunter-Gault, who now lives in South Africa, recently described the country as so rife with violence against women, that thousands of similar crimes, lacking celebrity appeal, do not even merit police investigations.
Every day since the Newtown massacre, Americans have been murdered with guns, now in the thousands, a slaughter that goes as unremarked here as the murder of women in South Africa. This consequence of gun-obsession has nothing to do with deranged loners running amok. Even if every last American mental case were tagged and disarmed, there would remain those, deemed legally sane, who isolate themselves, build personal arsenals, demand the right to carry guns into malls, movie theaters, stores and bars, pretending to be loyal Americans while threatening armed insurrection if thwarted.
Both South Africa and the U.S.A. made remarkable social progress in the 20th century, which only reveals how much more is urgently needed in the 21st.