Monday, January 21, 2013

Martin Luther King Day with Guns

Isn't it fabulous having a holiday like today? Where else in the world do they have a national holiday --  government offices closed and all -- for a Civil Rights Hero? (This is not a rhetorical question. Is there another country?) That this country celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. with this very special holiday makes me feel so good to be living here. If I were a US citizen, I would be so proud.

I was thinking about it as I spent my second day de-thatching my side garden. There used to be a line of feathery grasses on the edge but over the years, it's taken over the whole area, covering up the irises, preventing the wildflowers from coming up. Grasses from years past were thatched up in a horrid mat and so I was yanking away the dead stuff and giving everyone a crew cut.

The unusually warm weather was making the birds unusually active and I was enjoying the accents of birdsong in the peace and quiet until...

Bam! Bam! Bam!

The boys were at it again. Skeet shooting off the ridge.

When we gained our new tenants last summer, not only did we gain in testosterone, but arms. As in guns. Lots of them.

JD who's been living here for years was always a gun guy. In fact, my first Gun Experience was when we visited him in Colorado. (GUNnison, not Columbine.) We had been shooting a video there and he threw a little wrap party for us. There were hot dogs and beers and lots and lots of guns.

"Was this supposed to be BYOG?" I joked. It seemed to me that everyone brought his or her favorite firearm. We were shooting from the big wraparound deck at everything JD could pull out of his garage: a broken coffee maker, cans, boxes... The rubber doll was in terrible taste and I was very nervous with the booze-weapons combo but I had to laugh when someone brought out the Tannerite, a stable explosive in a tube.

"You can bash it, mash it, even mail it. But if you hit it with a bullet from a high-powered rifle... Kaboom!" JD gleefully gestured a giant explosion.

JD's kept a lower profile here at our ranch, but now we have the Taliban Brothers, as he's started to call the H Brothers in the back. (I don't know why he calls them that. They did look kind of Taliban-ish when they grew beards. Or maybe it's the fact that they are hetero guys who prefer the company of men.) And they have their own small arsenal of rifles, handguns and assault weapons.

It does not make me feel safer. In fact, I feel at risk every time I go into the woods. But since Big Dog is okay with it, I am tolerating the recreational shooting. At least while they are just shooting at clay, metal or plastic targets. ("And P got some biodegradable clay pigeons," BD tries to reassure me.) Of course, I'd feel a whole lot better without the semi-automatics on the ranch.

Today, it was one of the Talibans, P from the front, and Big Dog. JD was in bed, nursing his injuries after getting thrown from a horse.

It felt bizarre. Hearing all those gunshots on this day celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. who was taken from us too soon by a bullet.

But it also felt like a quintessentially American moment -- challenging me to be as tolerant as we all need to be in order to realize the American Dream. Because for me, the American Dream is not about economics. The American Dream is about being able to believe what you need to believe, value what you need to value but also accept those who are diametrically opposed.

Later, when Big Dog and I were on our way to check out some new plantings, JD showed off his new rifle -- something that looks like it belongs in North Kivu, DRC -- and commented on how he had bought it in Colorado for $1500 "the day after the election" and then several weeks later, gotten an offer of $4000 for it from a gun shop owner in California.

"A customer who was there said, 'I'll pay double that!'" he cackled.

Though JD's new toy made me cringe inside, I did not show it. I just quietly prayed for some sense in the majority and, maybe one day, a little bit of gun control.

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