There’s a Man With a Gun Over There.

It was morning and the dog stared out the window, as dogs do, so I joined him. It’s hard to say what interests him. He’s a dog and likes dog things. We live in an older neighborhood with a pond and large natural area  in front of the house. Sometimes one or both of his nemeses, Big!White!Dog! or black Pointy Dog show up and annoy him. Besides other dogs, the area is home to wildlife–coyotes, waterfowl, foxes, rabbits, and so on. A juvenile bald eagle seems to have taken up residence, which is kind of cool. It’s private property but lots of people stroll through whether they live here or not.

A man bouncing along the path caught our attention. Short arms swinging, he was pudgy and round, fairly short, gray hair, Irish walking cap. He wore a white short-sleeved shirt and sky-blue Bermuda shorts pulled up too high, and socks. Think Midwestern tourist in San Francisco. Think the Monopoly Man on the beach but without a mustache. If you saw the little man in a shopping mall or stadium, you wouldn’t give him a second thought. He was so nondescript that I’m having a hard time describing him.

I didn’t give him a second thought either, until he rounded the walk and I noticed he had a pistol strapped to his belt. It wasn’t a big pistol, like a Navy Colt .45 or a 9 mm. Glock or something you’d see a police officer packing. His gun was compact and angled in its holster, maybe a .22 or .25. or .32 caliber. I waited, hoping to check him out further, but instead of turning and walking along the front of our house as most strollers do, he turned the other way and disappeared.

A few months ago, my wife and I rounded the aisle in a grocery store and ran into a guy with a large automatic pistol cinched to his waist. He was a big guy in a tank top and jeans, backwards baseball cap, normal guy, not a security guard or cop or anything. It was unsettling, so we turned and left.

You just think, Why? Why do they have to sport a pistol in public?

Everyone knows the gun arguments on both sides, so I won’t get into them here. What difference does it make? Everyone’s mind is made up and nothing will change anyway. 

But still. What goes through people’s minds when they get dressed? They think, “Well, I’ll wear this shirt and these pants” or whatever for whatever reason–it’s hot, they’re going out someplace, time to go to work, they’re heading for the gym, they’re visiting their in-laws–all the places people go to do whatever it is they’re going to do, and dress accordingly.

But with this little man and the guy in the grocery store, they had to have thought before heading out the door, “Oh, I have to strap on my gun.” Again, why? Obviously, they want people to see they’re packing heat. Why do they want others to know that? Do they want to get in an argument over gun rights? Do they want others to notice them and go, “Whoa?”

Again, why? Okay, maybe they’re undercover-law enforcement, but that’s not likely. Are they afraid of something? Did the little man on the path think he might have to shoot a coyote? Was he looking for terrorists behind the cottonwood trees? Did the guy in the grocery store think he was going to take down some bad actor? What would they say if you asked them why they were packing heat? Do they imagine scenarios where they can be heroes helping people, such as stopping an in-progress burglary, preventing a schoolyard shooter, saving a woman being raped?

I don’t know.

When we lived in Portland a few years ago, a man with a gun intervened in a car theft by trying to shoot out the tires of the fleeing car. One of the bullets bounced off the tire and hit a pedestrian. Who knows where the other bullets went? 

Recently, the Denver Post ran an item about a dispute between two men over a parking place resulting in one of them being shot and killed. Stories run several times a week about road rage incidents ending up in shots fired, injuries or fatalities resulting. In this story, a man killed a 13-year-old boy and shot the boy’s mother and little brother, along with a bystander, over a lane change.

A few months ago, I wrote a post about my former dentist, whom I adored for her skill and humor. Her husband killed her. I’m still not over that one.

The thing about guns people seldom talk about is that they make their holders do something they otherwise wouldn’t have done. You get in an argument with someone. It turns into shouting. Then, maybe, name-calling, even shoving. If there’s no gun involved, it stops there. But if one or the other yanks out a gun, it’s a different situation.

When I saw the little man with the gun and they guy in the grocery store with his gun along with other times of seeing people packing their firearms, gun rights never occurred to me. All that comes to mind is, “What’s that person going to do with that gun?”

Because you don’t know.

 

 

Pissed.

“The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge.”

Edgar Allen Poe’s Montresor used a cask of Amontillado to exact revenge. But I, devoid of anything so exotic, had to settle on unfriending a guy on Facebook. I’d never done that before. I just hide someone I find disagreeable, or even ignore them. Who cares?

But when it gets out of hand, it gets out of hand.

It started a few years ago with his emails of Far Right memes–Obama birtherism, Clintons and hidden crimes, Muslims secretly instituting Sharia law–that sort of thing. He found them (a) amusing, (b) profound, or (c) both. Then the pro-Donald Trump crap started coming, which fell into the same categories.

As a rule, I try not to give a shit. Sure, these memes were based on falsehoods or lies. Yeah, they were meant to inflame. On the whole, I just thought, Really? “Based on this bizarre meme replete with misspellings and poor grammar, I will totally change my mind,” said no one, ever. The email headings and openers were in two or more smarmy fonts in colors such as magenta or aqua blue and often in all caps, so they were easy to delete without reading them and getting upset.

I made sure he knew my convictions were far different than his and called him out a couple of times, politely, when I found something over the top. I probably should have cut him off, but I didn’t. What the hell. An old man with a hard-wired point of view, he’d never change anyway. Besides, unlikely as it was, you never know when you might learn something, right? And aren’t we supposed to transcend mere conviction and look for common ground?

At some point, Fate intervened and crashed his computer. He lost much of his contact information, including mine. Yay! A few weeks ago, though, he asked me for my email address–“I have some really interesting things I want to show you–” and I gave it to him. Okay, I knew what was coming, but why not tolerate the old SOB?

He is an old man, a World War II veteran. He can be really funny. And he’s smart, a holder of several patents, a long career in both engineering and marketing, and so on. In person, he is a pleasant and engaging fellow with interesting life experiences and observations.

Then came a series of anti-Muslim screeds, all containing rank falsehoods roundly debunked by Snopes, Politifact, and other such sites, which, of course, I pointed out. I asked him to stop, that I found these personally offensive, that I had Muslim friends and family in Istanbul. Some of the stuff he was sending, I told him, was as hurtful as his calling my nephews and niece, who have an African-American father, by a racial slur. No matter.

Then, this one came: “Im not a bible thumpin’ Christian, but I do believe in God, heaven, hell, the Golden Rule and the 10 Commandments. Were supposed to be a Nation that has complete freedom of religion…….we certainly condone Muslims even tho they preach death to non-belivers, lying to their enemy’s and treat women like pond scum………but taking away our right to pray in school is unconscionable! Remember this when you go to vote!” A bizarre “poem” entitled “The New Lord’s Prayer,” purportedly written by a 15-year-old high school student in Minnesota, accompanied the rant. A three-minute Google search proved the letter to be a fake.

But the part about Muslims preaching death to non-believers and treating women like pond scum really irritated me, and I let him know it, along with every other recipient in the chain. That said, I also took it as an opportunity to engage, to pass along some informative tracts on Islam, the context behind the medieval Koran writings, its similarity to the Old Testament in that regard, and so on.

One result was a back-and-forth with on of the recipients, who claimed to be a business person with years of experience in the Islamic world. Okay, so our politics were different, but it was a polite and the exchange useful. However, he ended one of his letters with, “When they try to force those beliefs on others, particularly me, I will exercise my 2nd amendment rights!”

So much for reasoned discourse.

Okay, screw it, I said to myself. This is going nowhere. I’m gone.

Then, this email:

With our somewhat stupid view of political correctness these days, some will probably find this offensive.  But I believe in laughing at everything………..it will keep you alive longer.  And I find this funny.  I also thought Amos and Andy, Step n’ fetchit’ and a host of others were funny…….but I guess that’s another life.  You can’t ignor (sic) something and it will go away! 

Subject: FW: Breaking News 

Al Sharpton reported today that Walt Disney’s new film called “Jet Black,” the African-American version of “Snow White” has been canceled. All of the 7 dwarfs: Dealer, Stealer, Mugger, Forger, Drive By, Homeboy, and Shank have refused to sing “Hi Ho” because they say it offends black prostitutes. 
They also say they damn sure have no intention of singing, ‘It’s off to work we go
‘.” 

A real screamer, no?

Does tolerance and open-mindedness require you to bend when someone throws something at you that’s so offensive, so horrible that you can’t think of anything else the next few hours? Days later, I can’t get it out of my mind that someone could be so vile, so depraved as to send such trash out into the email-o-sphere and think it was funny, let alone just okay.

Constantly plagued with self-doubt, as I tend to be, I waited overnight before responding. Good thing, maybe, because I tempered the profanity-laced invective I’d readied for the guy and let him know how offended I was and that I wanted nothing further to do with him. Ever. I blocked him on social media and blocked his emails. Not as good as walling him up, ala the Poe story, but this is 2019, when Amontillado is rare and hidden niches in wine cellars rather hard to find.

He also has an email chain who probably thought the meme was ha-ha-ha hysterical-funny, and everyone in the chain has their own chain who has their own chain and so on.

I’m not over it.

This is the country we live in.