Leaving The United States


In the nine days since I’ve moved to Panama there have been three prominent mass murders from guns in the United States. In Gilroy, California at the garlic festival where three people were killed and thirteen wounded. In El Paso, Texas a hate-filled white nationalist killed at least twenty people and left twenty-six wounded from bullets.

As I write this at five in the morning after waking from disturbing dreams, I read that just hours ago, nine people were killed and sixteen others were wounded in a shooting in Dayton, Ohio.

That’s three mass shootings in less than a week. That does not include all the other deaths from gun violence where maybe one or two people were killed.

Here in Panama in the past week there have been no mass shootings and it’s very unlikely any will happen. Yes, people are killed by gun violence here, but the country doesn’t have a history of racism that in the United States is openly supported by the current occupant of the White House and unlike the US, Panama has strict gun laws.

I recall my response to mass shootings while living in the states; heartbreak, disbelief and fear. Those traumas affect a society collectively. And when it’s clear that the leader of the nation supports ethnic cleansing and is a puppet for the NRA; tensions, anger, anxiety and aggression are fueled.

My heart is broken for all the people directly and indirectly affected by the most recent mass killings. But I do not feel the anxiety and fear I once used to now that I live in Panama. It’s a prominent and visceral feeling. I feel safe here.

When we don’t feel safe, the Amygdala goes into overdrive, sensing, calculating and analyzing all input to the brain through the filter of fear. And in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, safety is the second basic need to be met before we can move on to love and belonging. Doesn’t it make sense that so many people are disconnected, lack empathy and seem to be spewing robotic programmed messages of hate, intolerance, exclusion and subscribe to soundbyte psychology?

Love is the crowning grace of humanity, the holiest right of the soul, the golden link which binds us to duty and truth, the redeeming principle that chiefly reconciles the heart to life, and is prophetic of eternal good.
— Petrarch - Italian Poet, 1304-1374

And so, I bid farewell to America and I look forward to learning about the history, country and culture of Panama, my home.