The Wrong End
“Courage is knowing what not to fear.”
For a time I worked as a construction laborer. It was taxing work, but it had some pleasant moments. Once we built a basement out by the river running past the town where I lived. It was a secluded beautiful spot. Surrounded by trees, and close enough you could hear the water running, but far enough to avoid being flooded.
We had finished construction and were cleaning up, just a coworker and me. It was spring, and the warmth and sunshine mixing with a slight breeze made the day seem almost heavenly. Birds and bugs sound so loud when everything else is so quiet. A symphony of nature, calls, responses, echoes of hundreds of small things singing in celebration, a good day to be alive.
Certain sounds will stay with you forever. Gunfire and the sound of bullets ricocheting off a cement block are those types of sounds. Angry metal bees screaming up from the deepest pits of hell. Death and mutilation captured in short, violent banshee screeches filled the air.
We ran to the truck, bent at the waist, soldiers on the silver screen. Drove as fast as we could to the shop, and demanded they call the police. “Someone is trying to kill us.” We were frantic.
Our boss took us back to the site, and assured us that it “was just some jackass with a .22 dicking around on the river.” He made us fill the pockmarked walls, and finish the job. There were no more bullets. I don’t really know how many shots there were, maybe three, maybe seven, it seemed like thousands.
“I have had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.”
Later I took a job at a local liquor store. It was a small, rundown place right on the highway through town. The air conditioner did not work, so we left the doors wide open to get any breeze we could in the stifling summer heat.
Unfortunately, this allowed dust to blow in in waves. Covering bottles and shelves in gritty, grimy powder. One night while trying to brush off a shelf a man came in the back door, by the parking lot, wearing a ski mask and carrying a gun. I looked up to see him standing there, the gun pointed at my face. I don’t know much about guns, but this one looked huge, menacing, the hole in the middle of the barrel was a tunnel to extinction.
I gave him all the money and prayed it would be enough. It was, he left, and I lived.
After those two separate incidences, I never again had to wonder how I would react. I knew exactly what I would do. It was kind of a relief. I could still have macho, hero fantasies, save the world, get the girl, live happily ever after. But, I knew if things got ugly the world was on its own, and if the girl was looking for someone with battle scars goodbye, good luck and God bless her.
Despite this, I am, in general terms, not opposed to guns. One way or another it matters little if responsible people want guns and are willing not to use them to harm other people what do I care?
I am opposed to the argument “I need a gun for self-defense.” How many times has anybody ever been put in a situation where a gun would have been useful? I have faced a gun once, and faced flying bullets once; neither time did I think “man, this situation would be a whole lot more enjoyable if we had another gun in play.”
In fact, both times, in my opinion, there were already too many guns involved. It would have been much more comfortable had we removed the gun from both situations. A vote was not taken, and, as is often the case, the person with the gun was making the rules.
Most times gun violence happens one side cries about the wasted lives, the senseless tragedy and the other cries about the lost opportunity. If only somebody else had a gun, then the game would have changed. The rules would have been different. It is a dangerous situation, but, somehow, the argument goes, the gunman with good intentions will prevail.
Maybe that is the whole point of carrying a gun. The potent, virile authority it provides. It is a chance to make the rules. At work, at home, in life that does not happen very often. But, if you have a gun, and the opportunity presents itself, and you don’t get shot first, you can make the rules. How nice is that, how can a person pass on that?
Just don’t ask me to play along, I don’t care much for the game.
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