Regarding that thing and some facts

This was published in the Morganown, WV Dominion Post yesterday. It's my rebuttal to a letter to the editor from the day prior. The writer of the original letter claimed, as is so often erroniously repeated in America when this is mooted, that Australia has become a free-for-all of criminality and fear since the National Firearms Agreement. I will grant that Australia and America have very different underlying cultures that don't make particular decisions on this immediately parallel; however, if you are going to posit an argument, you have to work from the facts.

As a resident of Australia visiting Morgantown, I must contest a paragraph I read in Scott Watkins’ letter to the edtor (DP-Wednesday). His statement that, “Australia(ns) thought if they were to confiscate all firearms, which they did, their crime rate would plummet. In actuality, once their citizens were disarmed, the crime rate increased dramatically due to the fact that their citizens could no longer defend themselves” is factually incorrect. Since the National Firearms Agreement (NFA) and buyback program in 1996, the crime rate has fallen nationally, though the population has increased significantly. Watkins also implies that the NFA was an attempt to address common crimes in which firearms were used. It was not; the move was in response to a mass shooting and the national discussion that followed. The (conservative) government at the time brought forward legislation to ban weapons that had no practical use other than killing people—one can still, of course, own a hunting rifle in Outback Australia. Since the NFA, we’ve had no mass shootings. Yes, criminals will still obtain weapons and, yes, there are still gun-related homicides; but the argument that “citizens could no longer defend themselves” is spurious and also assumes that Australia had the same gun culture as America.

Australians do not cower in their homes afraid to go out for lack of protection. On the contrary, it's the knowledge that the streets are not awash with guns that provides a sense of safety. The “freedom” sacrificed by discarding these weapons enables the much greater freedom of well-being in daily life.

Very random cross-cultural speaking tips

Okay, this is quite random. I was just searching for an old email and found these tips I wrote when I was one of the leaders on a cross-cultural team in Bulgaria. It was a list of tips for the team regarding public speaking:

1. Speak with confidence (try not to "ummm..." or "welllll..." so much).
2. Keep hands out of your pockets (it's considered rude here, even when just standing around on the street; pockets are for things, not hands). Never ever cross your arms in front of an audience.
3. Try not to say "you guys..." (e.g. "We've really had a great time with you guys...").
4. Try to put across the fact that we are here to learn about others first and then we would like them to also learn something about us.
5. Look attentive during meetings; even though you don't understand a word of what is said, it's impolite to daze off. There is a certain art to doing this that may take years to master.
6. If you say what state you are from, be sure to add " the United States." (e.g. if you say "I'm from Georgia" here, people will assume you are from The Republic of Georgia).
7. Even when the translator is translating, you are still "speaking." Be sure to retain contact with the listeners.
8. Even if you (as a team) don't know what you are doing next on stage, try to make it appear like you are all "on plan" (try to maintain the appearance that you have everything worked out; first we will speak a bit, then sing, then so and so will give a testimony; rather than conferring after everything you do).
9. This is where you are "on point." Try to maintain enthusiasm; this meeting may be the only time this group of people meet the team; even though you are exhausted, it's important to give a good presentation of yourselves and be enthusiastic (this is a cardinal rule of all presentations).
10. If something happens that is an English linguistic mistake, try not to laugh or make note of it; people will not understand why you are laughing.
11. Don't "bumble about." It's distracting to the people watching. Try to be as smooth as possible with your physical movements and transitions on and off stage.
12. Gentlemen should let ladies enter and exit the stage first.
13. Hands to the sides or in "praise the LORD" mode whilst singing (definitely not in pockets).

This was all for a project through the American Baptist Mission Board; I did month-long cultural immersion trips with them in Japan, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic. I did media for the trips but sort of wish I had it all to do over again with the tools that are available today! I came across another email on suggestions for brands of MiniDV tape but somehow think that's probably not especially relevant anymore.