I am a Liberal. I am not a pacifist.
I’ve always had a hard time explaining to people my views regarding guns. I think most Conservatives I know revel in trying to pin me as the stereotypical Democrat; weak, tree-hugging, cares more for animals and newts than people, won’t own a gun but wants my neighbor who does to come to my aid when I’m being raped or robbed. While I’m generally very clear on my views and why I hold them, I’ve had a hard time putting into words what I feel on the subject of gun ownership.
Perhaps my inability to explain my views is because I’m often ridiculously verbose and passionate and get tangled up in my own commentary to the point which I end up saying something like this professorial little gem while debating at the family barbecue: “I hate guns and war, ok! But I know they’re often necessary and I would wish I had a gun if some asshat broke into my house but….argggghhhh….is that potato salad German or American???” I’m a master of deflection when I can’t express myself. See, there’s that ridiculously verbose thing.
Perhaps, though, my inability to explain my views is as simple as….I’m a hypocrite.
I suppose I’m writing about this because I read a story on Michael Dukakis the other day and was reminded of the question asked of him by Bernard Shaw during a debate with George Bush Sr. Shaw asked him if he would support the death penalty for someone who had raped and murdered his wife. Many credit his dispassionate response of essentially “nope” as the death-knell of his presidential ambitions. Many decried the question as patently unfair to ask to begin with. While possibly “unfair” in terms of throwing someone off-guard with such a personal, graphic, hypothetical question about heinous crimes committed against a loved one…I don’t think it was that unfair. I think politicians tend to separate themselves and their beliefs from what their own realities are, i.e., you’re against same sex marriage until your daughter comes out as gay and in a loving/committed relationship and suddenly you realize, “Hey, ok…I guess it’s not that bad”. I think the real courage displayed by politicians is when they can empathize with, and respond accordingly to, the plight of human beings without first having to experience that same plight for themselves.
And I believe that real courage in every-day human beings not only reflects that same empathy, but the balls to admit that while you might not believe in something in “principle”, when it gets right down to it, you believe in it anyway.
And therein lies my internal conflict on the issue of guns.
I’m no pacifist.
But I don’t want to own a gun. They scare me. They cause permanent, horrible, debilitating damage to real flesh-and-blood human beings in a lightning-flash. The thought of one in my house anywhere near my children makes me cringe. The thought of millions of them floating around out there in the hands of – just about anyone who wants one – terrifies me.
But you wanna know what else terrifies me? The thought of God-forbid someone breaking into my home, with a gun, and killing my family, my children, me. If that ever happens and some deranged criminal is climbing the stairs toward my kids’ rooms…. I guarantee you the following will be my first thought:
Why don’t I own a fucking gun? If I had a gun I would cock it, march up the stairs stealthily, sneak up behind the asshole who dared to harm those who I love, press the barrel of the gun again the base of his neck, march him out of view of my kids, ask him if he believes it was worth it……and then before waiting for his answer – calmly say “Yippie-Ki-Yay Mother Fucker” …and pull the trigger.
I’ve thought about this scenario more than once. Every time I think about it it makes my heart race and my brow sweat because the only thing that makes me feel better is to…not think about it at all. I am not courageous in this regard because I have a serious internal conflict. I want nothing to do with guns. I don’t think people should be able to own damn near any kind of gun they please, and especially not guns that come chock-full of as many clips and bullets as they can load into a picnic basket. But the fact remains that when I want a gun, need a gun as is warranted in my most feared scenario, I want it to be there at my fingertips. And I would use it.
I struggle mightily with this irony. I don’t blame Michael Dukakis for answering the way he did. The choices were to either completely disassociate yourself from the raw, primal human emotion of wanting to slaughter those who would harm anyone you love, and come off sounding like a “Republican” – or – take your emotions completely out of it and answering in a distinctly non-empathetic manner so that you can continue to state what you believe in. In theory. In principle. A “Democrat”…with no guts. It was a lose/lose outcome no matter which way he sliced it.
For now, all I can do is hope and pray to any and all higher powers that I will never be confronted with the scenario in which I will forever regret not having a gun. For now, all I can do is continue to trust that I will never need one in order to save my family or myself. For now, I have to be content that what I believe in principle does not necessarily mesh with the reality and possibilities we live with every day in this messed-up world. For now, all I can do is admit to myself that I have internal conflict over this issue, which is a nice way of saying “I’m a Hypocrite” publicly with what I profess to believe – and what I feel in my gut.
Yippie-Ki-Yay…ahhhh. Just forget it. I don’t have the balls to say it out loud.