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Remembrance Day on the 100th Anniversary of Armistice – From the “War to End All Wars”

single_red_poppy

By Dr David Laing Dawson

WW1 was stupid, stupid, stupid, one of the great follies of humankind. And this is what we need to remember on November 11th while still honoring the soldiers who died in that war, or came home with minds and bodies shattered. And we need to do this without glorifying or even justifying war.
This week a classic FM station has been playing a new musical version of “In Flanders Fields”. The composer talks of noticing the last stanza in this poem and its importance and neglect. That’s the stanza that begins “Take up our quarrel with the foe”. She has added the ominous rhythm of marching boots to her score.
No. That “foe” was comprised of equally frightened boys and young men sent to war by the equally blind, heartless, stupid leaders, kings, emperors, Kaisers and politicians of the day. And when Dr. John McCrae wrote that poem, several million bodies of those “foes” were already strewn in the fields of Europe.

In the spring of 1916 my grandfather stood up from a soggy rat infested trench in Belgium at the call to charge. A bullet pierced his left arm and shrapnel from an exploding bomb gashed his face and stuck in the left side of his skull. He was carried to the field hospital for the third time that year and from there transported to a hospital in England and then a rehabilitation center.
A hundred years later I have his service and hospital records on my computer.
The bullet in his left upper arm was a through and through and the wound healed quickly. The Xray of his skull shows particles of shrapnel embedded in his frontal and parietal bones. The surgeons removed what they could but a few metal shards remain. He was then transferred to the rehabilitation center to be prepared to be sent back to the front. But my grandfather kept having dizzy spells and falling down. In the brief medical jargon of the day the doctors wondered if this was caused by concussion, or was it shell shock or might it be “functional”. Today the doctors would have used the words “post-concussion syndrome”, PTSD, and pondered the possibility of conversion reaction and/or malingering. But first they would send him for an MRI.
My grandfather spent the summer and autumn of 1916 in that rehab center and he kept having dizzy spells and falling down. Eventually he was given a medical discharge and sent home to Canada, to Victoria, to arrive there in the winter of 1917.
I have a few scattered memories of my grandfather from the late 40’s into the 50’s when, for the entertainment of his grandchildren, he might tap the metal in his head and imply his whole skull was steel. Otherwise, I know, he never talked of the war. He had enlisted in 1915 with the first Canadian Expeditionary Force, after the rule that wives had to agree was dropped. He trained in England in the summer of that year and then was deployed to the battlefields in the fall, the trenches of France and Belgium.
I had always assumed my grandfather was a veteran of Vimy Ridge and I visited the monument there and wrote in the guest book. But his war and hospital records show he was discharged home before the battle of Vimy Ridge. He was a veteran and survivor of lesser known and less successful battles.
In the language of medicine “functional” implies both “no physical/organic cause” and “the possibility of there being a purpose or goal involved in the loss of function”. “Conversion reaction” and “malingering” are two extremes of interpretation. The first implies that though the behaviour has a goal it is not a conscious goal, the second that it is a fully conscious goal. Of course, for much human behaviour the truth lies somewhere in between.
But there it is. In the hospital and rehabilitation center in England did my Grandfather decide he was not going back to that insane war, to the death trap of those trenches, to the whim of a general ordering a charge against machine guns? Did he decide to fake infirmity and return to his wife and three small children waiting in a farmhouse on Cedar Hill Crossroad?
I’m sure he suffered PTSD, and those dizzy spells may have been caused by concussion, by cerebral bruising.
But I like to think that he realized how stupid, stupid, stupid it was for young men to be sitting in rat infested soggy trenches through the night and day shooting at each other, and that he should go home to care for my grandmother, my uncle, my aunt and my father. (Another aunt arrived after the war).
If he consciously decided to go home on a medical discharge, even while feeling the guilt and humiliation of such a decision, well, here is what I have to say:
“Good on ya, Grandad. I’m proud of you.”

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Flu Season is Coming

By Marvin Ross

Recently, a Facebook contact held a poll to determine if they should get a flu shot. Much to my surprise, 30% voted no with reasons like “it is better to build up your own immune system” to “the vaccine is not perfect”.

I was surprised but I guess I should not have been given the amount of anti-vax sentiment around. Building up your own immune system is stupid and it does not work. Polio, smallpox et al were eradicated not by having people build up their immune systems but by vaccinations. And yes, the flu vaccine is not perfect and its efficacy varies based on the best guess of epidemiologists but it does help to varying degrees.

What convinced me about 30 years ago was a study done by the National Hockey League. It may have just been the Toronto Maple Leafs but what they found was that the time off for players was greatly reduced  the year they got flu shots compared to the previous season. I’ve been getting it since and have never contracted the flu.

There is also an interesting difference between Canada and the US over flu shots. For many years, the flu shot in Ontario was only free to people with chronic diseases who were immune compromised. Then, it became available for free to everyone. In fact, only three provinces in Canada do not provide free vaccinations universally but they all do provide it for those with chronic illnesses. A few years ago, Ontario made it available in all pharmacies so people did not have to make a doctor’s appointment but could go into a pharmacy and get it from the pharmacist.

From what I gather, the flu vaccine in the US is only free to people who can satisfy certain conditions and who must apply for it. Otherwise, you pay. Now I don’t have stats on what percentages in each county do get the shot but the death statistics are telling. The World Health Organization says that up to 650,000 people die from influenza each year. In Canada, deaths from flu are about 3500 a year. As the US is about 10 times the Canadian population, that translates into 35,000 Americans. The actual death toll in the US in 2017/18 according to the CDC was 80,000. More that double the Canadian rate. This is an example of what the Spanish flu of 1918 to one city

An interesting commentary on the failure of the US to adopt universal health care was mentioned by the anthropologist, David Graeber. In his book Bull Shit Jobs, he quotes Obama who said:

“Everybody who supports single-payer health care says ‘look at all this money we would be saving from insurance and paperwork’. That represents one million, two million three million jobs (filled by) people who are working at Blue Cross Blue Shield or Kaiser or other places. What are we going to do with them? Where are we employing them?”

That quote came from an article in Nation, June 26, 2006 by David Sirota called “Mr Obama goes to Washington”.

When you don’t get a flu shot, you not only endanger yourself but those around you with compromised immune systems like the chronically ill and the elderly.

Go get a flu shot!

Madness Can Be Contagious

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Some years ago, working within psychiatric clinics and mental hospitals, I used to advise staff, students, counselors, therapists, psychiatrists, that the most important thing they should strive for at all times, was “to remain sane.” At all times, remain sane. Your job, as a mental health professional, is first and foremost, to remain sane.

Sane meant, of course, keeping calm, ethical, sensible, compassionate, and not reacting or over-reacting to the insanity that surrounded them. That insanity coming from both the patients and the human systems we all worked within.
Sane also meant not assuming responsibility for that which was not yours to assume, and not trying to change the unchangeable. It was also wise to bring perspectives of time and relative importance to all events.

Of course none of us were always able to achieve this.

But I am thinking of this as Maxime Bernier angrily leaves the Conservative party to start one of his own, presumably along even more conservative lines, and Doug Ford sets up a hotline for parents to rat on teachers if they step past 1950 in their sex ed teachings. And from James Cagney mouthing the words, “You dirty rat.” to the 15 year old boys I see who don’t “rat” on their friends, to Donald Trump calling John Dean a “rat” and then offering that maybe “flipping” should almost be illegal.

It is hard to remain sane.

It is hard to remain sane living next door to the USA as they fall into a deeply conflicted madness. But that is our Canadian task. Remain sane.

Americans are currently struggling over dichotomous extremes, polarizing issues that should have been settled long ago, now requiring mere tweaking with each new generation.

In Canada, all our systems can be improved, carefully, gradually. None of them need be abandoned, or drastically and dramatically changed. Our problems are not either/or. We do not need to choose capitalism or socialism, abortion or no abortion, accepting refugees or not accepting refugees, being multicultural or not multicultural, of having social programs, guaranteed income, health care for all, or not having these things.

We just need to tweak them and improve them from time to time, occasionally shifting the balance of private enterprise and government, reacting sanely and generously to crises, tweaking our laws and services to deal with the new realities, all the while pursuing the goal of a healthy, equitable, and happy society.

I am not downplaying the problems we face around housing, adequate income for all, employment and health care, not to mention saving the planet, but we must not fall into the contagion of vitriol south of our border.


On Youtube: A new play by Dawson premiered at the Artword Artbar, Hamilton.

 

How Science Tries to Understand Mental Processes

By Dr David Laing Dawson

When science tries to understand human behaviour it can develop methodologies to look at multiple levels of our organization. These levels could range from subatomic particles to the behaviour of tribes, nations, the population of the entire world.

Within the medical sciences we are interested in the behaviour of cells, of neurochemistry, and, at the other end of this chain, the experiences and behaviour of individual humans.

Behaviour can be observed, and observed within different contexts, and under specified situations. Internal experiences require self reporting within a social context, and self reporting is notoriously unreliable. (Imagine asking Donald Trump what he is thinking and feeling, and why he is having these thoughts and feelings, and whether he has written many books.)

Until quite recently the behaviour of brain cells, of neurochemistry, could only be studied by measuring the rise and fall of various metabolites in blood and urine.

And between these extremes (human behaviour and the rise and fall of metabolites in blood and urine) there existed an enormous black box containing the interaction of chemistry, cells, neurons, organs within the brain, systems of arousal and perception, systems of neural organization, complex biochemical and electrical feedback systems….

With EEGs, CT Scans, MRI’s, Pet scans, molecular biology, genome mapping, our new ability to at least see which parts of the brain are active (metabolizing, using glucose and oxygen) and which are dormant when we talk, listen to music and/or hallucinate, that Black Box has shrunk. But it is still there.

Behaviour is a visible product of a long complex chain of events from cell activity, neurohormone production, arousal and filtering systems, inhibiting and stimulating feedback loops.

Ritalin is a stimulant. Yet when given to a boy with ADHD it usually slows him down. So my best guess here is that with ADHD our stimulant is stimulating an inhibitory mechanism.

Like many medications, the power of Chlorpromazine (Largactil) to quell psychosis was discovered by accident. This time in France. Heinz Lehmann brought it to Canada to use in a trial at The Douglas Hospital. It worked dramatically, but why and how it worked is another question. Following the methodologies mentioned above it was first determined that chlorpromazine and drugs developed within the same family affected the neurochemical, neurotransmitter, dopamine. From this arose the dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia.

But we have since learned that each mental illness is the product of long, complicated pathways from neuron to dendrite to neuron to behaviour (sometimes through long chains and multiple pathways), and that different medications can affect the final behavioural outcome by affecting different parts of that chain, sometimes by stimulating production of a neurohormone, sometimes by emulating a neurohormone, sometimes by inhibiting a neurohormone, sometimes by blocking the transmission of a neurohormone, and sometimes by inhibiting the degradation of a neurohormone (hence the SSRI’s – Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors)

With the modern technologies we can describe with accuracy what exactly each drug does at a neuronal, biochemical level. But there remains a black box between that level and the actual observed behaviour. Though it is getting smaller and smaller and easily bridged with hypotheses.

But psychosis is not simply too much dopamine, nor depression inadequate serotonin. Although medically altering those two neurochemicals (neurotransmitters) does affect (usually) the chain of electrical/molecular events that leads to psychosis and depression.

What We Need to do to Survive

By Dr David Laing Dawson

The DNA imperatives that propelled our species this far are someday going to kill us all. We seek patterns, linkages, cause and effect. Our brains organize our multiple visual and auditory experiences. Our brains are, as others have said, organizing machines.

Most other creatures have built in templates seeking a match: the pathway to food, to shelter, to procreation, to touch and comfort. Our dominance has been upheld by our brains’ ability to organize information into new patterns, unique patterns, new cause and effect linkages, new explanations of cause and effect.

Galileo muttered, “And yet it moves” as he left the inquisition. Elon Musk says we need to colonize Mars. The Flat Earth Society is meeting in Saskatchewan (which is a good choice it occurs to me). Each brain is responding to the same imperative. The first has organized new information to arrive at a conclusion the church is not ready to accept. The second imagines a future from his own larger-than-life experiences and resources. The third clings to an old explanation by ignoring a wealth of other information.

A friend says, “They are both Leos; that explains it.” He smiles, letting me know he is not wholly committed to that (demonstrably silly) template of understanding.

The delusional man tells me a song on the radio is about him, for him, a message only to him, written for him, played for him. His penetrating gaze tells me this is how he organizes information. He is a believer. He is psychotic.

Today my Google list of top news topics includes Xi Jinping, Doug Ford, Donald Trump, and Steve Bannon.

I know why Xi Jinping and Doug Ford are there. I will resist using the juxtaposition of those four names to draw any organizational conclusions about the world and it’s future.

But Steve Bannon? Why is Steve Bannon back on the list?

And it turns out he is busy. Busy in Europe, especially Italy, meeting with numerous Populist Leaders, Far Right politicians, giving speeches, promoting…. I’m not sure what he’s promoting actually. “History is with us,” he says. He seems to be promoting the kinds of xenophobic, racist, exclusive, fascist, isolated enclaves that brought us both the First and the Second World War. He gathers information through his own filters and sees an apocalypse in our near future, a Fourth turning, a war of civilizations. The elitists can’t win this war for us, he says. He promotes a populist movement fueled by Social Media, by reinventions of Briebart News. He seems to relish an age of warring tribes, this time with modern weaponry.

But where does he picture himself in this? Surely not as a robed and besieged emperor. Not as a Mussolini. Perhaps as the Consigliere who can escape to Argentina after the conflagration?

Bannon’s grandiosity would not be important if he didn’t have an audience. And that is the puzzle. Why are these people including Steve Bannon as a source of information to help them formulate their understanding of the world? Though I suppose they are simply selecting those who come with ideas that support the self-serving conclusions they already share.

To survive the ant must organize a pattern, a trail, that will lead him from the nest and back in search of food. And then the ant will stick with it. If I plant my shoe in that track the ant will ignore the bodies and simply go over that shoe.

To survive now we humans must, somehow, quell the need for simple, absolute patterns, the need that opens the door to the veneration of Imams and Popes and Kings and Presidents-for-life, and the Trumps, Bannons, and Fords of this world. And we need to overcome that genetic impulse calling us back to small, exclusive, warring tribes.

We humans have the gift of imagining new patterns; though, like the ant, we cling to the old. To survive, contrary to the impulses of Trump, Bannon, Miller, and many others, we need to imagine our tribes as more and more inclusive, less and less competitive, more and more cooperative.

Steps in the Unraveling of a President

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Some wondered if Donald Trump’s latest tweet storm heralded an unraveling. This time he bounced back with a somewhat adult response to gun control, in so far as raising the the age of legal purchase and banning “bump stocks” is at least a beginning. ( He later returned to the NRA talking points of “hardening schools” and arming teachers)

So he didn’t unravel completely but he certainly gave us intimations of things to come.

As the Mueller investigation grinds on with more and more indictments and guilty pleas what can we expect from Donald J. Trump?

A supreme narcissist, like a child when cornered or caught stealing or reprimanded will fall back on an ever regressive series of deflections and denials:

  • It starts with straight denial. (never happened, wasn’t me, fake news, hoax, didn’t say that, I’m the most honest person you’ll ever meet)
  • Boasting about other things is added to this to distract and shore up his sense of omnipotence. “Popularity, security, number of bills passed, military budget.” This is compared to the failing of sibs or, in this case, all previous presidents.
  • It moves quickly to blaming someone else for the current problem, usually a brother or sister when a child. In this case Obama and Crooked Hillary, the Dems, the previous administration.
  • Next comes a statement of unfairness or injustice. “You never get after my sister and she does worse things.” “Obama was worse, how come he doesn’t get in trouble? Look at what Hillary got away with? You should be looking into the Uranium deal?”
  • And then accusations of unfairness, prejudice on the part of parents (FBI, Justice Department). “You never liked me. You always liked Obama more than me. You gave Hillary a pass.” You are terrible parents (Congress, FBI, Justice Department). I hate you.
  • Then perhaps a string of unrelated accusations against a sister or brother or friend or teacher. In this case the Dems, various Senators, Obama, the Justice Department.
  • And then the temper tantrum. The weeping, yelling, pounding of fists on the floor, stomping of feet. In this case a flow of whiny, semi-coherent profanities and mutterings. A mix of self-aggrandizement and self-pity.
  • And then some lashing out.

And this is when more than the reputation and solvency of the USA is at risk. This is when we are all at risk.

More on Weinstein and Friends

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Say it ain’t so, Al, Jeff,  Kevin…..

What is happening?

We turn 16, 17, or so, and the mating game begins. The sexual competition. This plays out within many different cultural rules, regulations and customs. It can be an open market, so to speak, in some modern cultures and driven by family status and economics in others. But it is a competition fought with all the weapons and symbols of female and male desirability. For most primates this involves tests of strength and the flaunting of secondary sexual characteristics and pheromones. We humans have added a great many more symbols of availability and readiness, from lipstick to sports cars. (so many symbols, in fact, that decoding them can be complicated).

But the game is on, and perhaps it lasts from the teens to late 20’s, often now followed by a second inning between 30 and 50.

Some years ago someone observed wedding receptions to watch this mating game unfold with several generations present. The most interesting observation was that each party had at least one older uncle who danced randomly and crazily into the small hours, without self-consciousness, with enjoyable abandon. The writer’s conclusion was that this uncle was a man who knew he was no longer in the competition. He could drop all pretense, all posing. He could simply have a good time without worrying about which fair maiden might be watching and judging him.

Which brings me to my point. All these men being accused of sexual impropriety are older (and often no longer attractive) males surrounded by beautiful younger women (and men) who are not interested in them. They, the older men, are out of the game, sidelined, retired. The women are no longer sending them signals of availability. In other ways these men are admired and desired, but not sexually, not by younger women. The younger women are looking elsewhere.

This is not to excuse their behaviour. Their actions display anger and resentment about being left off the dance card, perhaps more anger, resentment and entitlement than desire. Time to grow up, gentlemen. We are not forever young.

The ‘Ultimate Sacrifice’ and Other Consoling Fictions

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I understand the families of soldiers killed in war must find ways of understanding their loss, their grief, of honouring their sons and daughters, their husbands, brothers, sisters. I understand that those who send these young men and women into war must find ways, beyond guilt and despair, of understanding, of justifying their responsibilities.

I understand that when most of us conclude that the war in question was unnecessary, foolish, and tragic, the families and generals must double down on their consoling fictions.

General John Kelly, as a military commander who sends young men and women into war zones, and who lost a son in Afghanistan has as much a need as anyone to find consoling fictions. And in his recent press conference defending Donald Trump he did just that. He elevated the fallen, those killed in battle, to a very restricted strata of society, the best of the best. He lessened his guilt by emphasizing that these young people know what they are signing up for, that they are fully aware they may be sacrificing their lives, that they do it for “love of country”.

I understand his need to think as he thinks, to imagine his son sitting with Athenian Gods in a Parthenon of heroes. It is no less a fiction than the stories told to ISIS fighters, and to all young men and women in totalitarian states.

We must grieve and honour these soldiers and console their families. We must do this in a way that does not perpetuate the myth of glory, that does not undermine the more important message, “never again”. We must do this in a way that does not perpetuate the fictions of a warrior culture.

For it is these fictions, “the ultimate sacrifice” for “love of country” as a “choice made by the best of the best” by fully cognizant young men and women, by a special elevated breed of human — it is these fictions that will allow us to go to war again, nay, require us to go to war again.

More Assault on Democracy

By Dr David Laing Dawson

In my list of instructions (the order was arbitrary) for undermining democracy, point 9 included curtailing unfavourable reporting by newspapers and TV networks via “licensing bodies”. Donald Trump floated the idea in a tweet earlier this week, “at what point is it appropriate to challenge their license?” and then, apparently emboldened, directly suggested it a day later. “…licenses must be challenged and if appropriate, revoked…” His target this time is NBC.

The outrage has not been deafening. Perhaps because another Trump tweet suggested pulling FEMA out of Puerto Rico while accusing them of being in a financial mess of their own making, and he is about to sign a bill that will undermine the Affordable Care Act. He is also busy undermining multiple international agreements from NAFTA to UNESCO. And we are distracted by the crimes and misdemeanors of Harvey Weinstein and the killing spree of Mr. Paddock.

A serial killer inures himself to remnants of fear and anxiety by engaging in a self-designed desensitization process. The same process works with large populations. “This is an unusual presidency”, someone says on CNN, “He doesn’t fit the mold.” “Should we take him literally?” “Should we take him seriously?” someone else asks.

But I think I have been most disturbed of late to hear even the thoughtful and presumably liberal experts and pundits on CNN tell me that, with respect to North Korea, “Diplomacy has failed. We have tried diplomacy for 25 years and it has failed.”

And then even when they say war is not an option, they calculate the cost of war, conventional or otherwise, as being a few thousand U.S citizens residing in South Korea, perhaps a few million South Korean lives, and the devastation of the Korean peninsula.

So this is where we stand at the moment, 9 months in:

  • Limit, by threat and licensing, the free press
  • Create chaos and anxiety at home (the soil from which grows tyranny)
  • Vilify and dehumanize an enemy
  • Desensitize the population to the truth and reality of war.

(in case anybody missed the point, North Korea has not attacked anyone in 25 years, so “diplomacy” has been working)

Reality VS Reality TV, Las Vegas and Packing

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I confess I have been watching too much CNN of late. This is not conducive to good mental health. But one of the things very apparent this week has been the struggle on the part of hosts, interviewers, guests and pundits to find a clear narrative in the Las Vegas story. Somehow there seems to be a need for this real life event to conform to the conceits of fiction.

Perhaps this should not be surprising for so-called reality TV does just that. It takes recordings of (albeit within a contrived and manipulated context) real human behaviours and organizes them in the editing room to fit, to satisfy the demands of story telling and fiction. Perhaps the presidency of Donald Trump is another symptom of fiction infiltrating reality; he certainly treats his job as if he is still the producer and star of a reality TV show. “Maybe this is the calm before the storm.” “What storm, Mr. President?” “You’ll see.”

Fiction requires a definable conflict, clear motivation, and an inciting incident. In a Hollywood movie the inciting incident occurs 5 to15 minutes in. Fiction supplies a background that explains the principal characters’ personalities in simple terms. Each character has an arc of development. The second act comprises variations on the theme building to the third act resolution. We are seldom happy with an inconclusive ending. We crave identifiable heroes and villains. We crave motivation in the form of a logical sequence of events, or something with which we can empathize. For a series to work each episode must end in a cliffhanger. If not a cliffhanger at least a little foreshadowing.

Fiction abounds in our lives these days. We can spend every waking hour engrossed in fiction and not run out of new shows. And so it should not be surprising that the conceits of fiction are falsely shaping our perceptions of reality, or our expectations of reality. They even creep into popular psychology and mental health jargon. They have crept into our body politic. They have enthralled a substantial number of Americans into believing such a sorry specimen as Donald Trump would make a good president. They form the parameters of our questions about the Las Vega shooter.

I see this influence in the current search for specific childhood traumas that might explain the development of psychotic illness. I see it in the words “trigger” and “closure”, borrowed just like Multiple Personality Disorder and “alters” from fiction, in “recovered memory” and “flashback”. I see more than a bit of fiction in the popularity of CBT.

But real life seldom conforms to the rules of fiction. Lives are messy. Variables are plentiful. Folly is more common than conspiracy. Motives are seldom clear. Judgment is always limited. Feeling states can be fleeting or persistent. Pain, addiction, depression, and psychosis all cause tunnel vision, an inability to see anything beyond that which might alleviate the suffering. People do not acquire insight and learn great lessons within a 60 or 90 minute narrative.

It is reasonable I suppose, and very human, to try to figure out what mental state could guide a person like Mr. Paddock to do what he did.

But while we try to figure this out it distracts from the simple truth that a human being can slip into the kind of mental state that leads to the acquisition and use of immense fire power. If that serious lethal weaponry is readily available. If that serious lethal weaponry is readily available it will be acquired and used by someone to kill.

**

I was at a party last night. A wedding celebration. Several generations, kids to octogenarians, many people I did not know. The theme was Halloween or Goth so devils, fallen angels, bent priests, strict nuns, metal, blood, and hints of S & M abounded. The music was loud, the bar open, the speeches emotional, and, as with any such celebration, some of the relationships quite complex. With Trump and Las Vegas not far from anyone’s mind, they intruded into the otherwise congenial conversation. And I wondered out loud what it would be like attending this kind of event in the USA. Would I be calculating how many guests were packing (indulging in concealed carry that is), would I worry that one of the bride’s sketchy ex-boyfriends might arrive with semi-automatic weapon, would I feel this relaxed and safe, would I worry more about the morose uncle putting away his fifth glass of whiskey, would I worry about the veiled insult within one of the speeches?

My American friends. You are crazy. Do you not understand the sense of peace and security and safety that comes from knowing the man next to you is unlikely to be carrying a gun?