Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My Line In The Sand

I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to the two questions I asked in my previous blog posts. The comments that I received from all of you were very insightful and gave me pause. I wondered if I should rethink my position on the NRA. Were my associations with various officers and other, well-known members, clouding my vision about the organization? It is not an easy question to answer because for nearly thirty years I’ve been a life member and before that I was an annual member. I’ve worked with the NRA and helped organize the first “Friends of the NRA” fund raising banquet in Colorado and I have relied on the NRA to provide information for hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles. Finally, of the two individuals who are the closest to me as friends one is a life member and the other a benefactor and also a member of the NRA Board of Directors. The questions I have been asking myself I wanted to give more than casual thought. I wanted to probe my thinking as deep as I possibly could.

Here’s my conclusion.

Many years ago I unconsciously drew for myself a line in the sand over the Second Amendment. I had just passed through a phase of my life where I decided I would give up hunting and guns. For several years this “hunting-free” lifestyle seemed adequate but when I came face-to-face with a choice about whether I would once again hunt or leave it forever I chose to hunt. A few years later I wrote a story about that decision and the events leading up to it and the story won several awards and has been reprinted in a number of magazines. At the time I wrote it I did not equate Second Amendment issues with my return to hunting. The transformation occurred when I was sitting in a Colorado Springs restaurant with a young lady I knew only casually. In the course of the conversation I said that on Friday I would be taking my daughter to stay with my mother over the weekend because I was going dove hunting with two friends. Out of the clear blue she asked if I owned a gun. I explained I did and then she asked how I was able to buy a gun and I told her where I’d bought it and the other details. She then screwed up a very serious tone and facial expression and said she thought people who had been in Vietnam should not be allowed to have guns because “everyone knows the fighting and killing ‘over there’ had messed up their minds and they couldn’t control themselves.” She went on to offer, in great detail, how Vietnam Veterans had committed “thousands of murders” and other crimes after coming home and she had believed that they could no longer own guns--she also believed that the police had an obligation to find those Vietnam veterans and take away their guns. “They are easy to find because they dress like they are still in the army,” she said definitively, obviously forgetting I was one of those veterans.

I don’t remember a lot of the conversation after that but I tried to talk to her about how I’d grown up in a family that did a lot of hunting and I started hunting with my father--all of the typical arguments about hunting and guns. She wouldn’t hear any of it. She finally stood up to leave and matter-of-factly said that I could call her “after you get rid of your gun and quit killing animals.” I never again saw or heard from her, nor did I try to contact her.

Now, after days of thinking about the NRA comments here on this blog and where I position myself today I’ve slowly realized that on that warm, late summer afternoon I drew a line in the sand. At the time I didn’t realize I had. I only knew that I felt betrayed because the freedom to own a gun is woven into the fabric of the nation. In the recess of my mind there was also the realization that this national fabric that I had taken for granted was not sewn of steel but of the finest threads and its red dye is the blood of its sons and daughters. We take for granted that those ideas and beliefs that have formed our national fabric will stand for themselves and will always be there. We expect our fabric to stand in sacred honor. It does not. We have learned it is a gossamer fabric that shimmers and shakes in the political and emotional winds that threaten to tear each of the threads from its anchor.

We are a nation of choice; the national fabric has been woven from the threads of choice. Our nation stumbled by fitful starts into weaving our fabric of choice, a democratic republic if you will, where finally nearly every man and woman can choose. We are not perfect, so we must try to be better.

One choice that we have is whether to own a firearm. That choice, that thread of our fabric, is one where I have drawn my line in the sand, and yet every year there are new pressures to change that choice, to erase that choice, and to rip the threads of that choice from the national fabric and in too many cases the foes of that choice have won small, but compounding victories, ripping one thread at a time from our fabric.

Protecting the Second Amendment is not a simple act of maintaining a stand in its defense but of being aware that each and every day someone is reaching for our national fabric and brushing threads away by claiming they are clearing cobwebs. That now nameless young woman I had found so attractive wanted to clear away what were, to her, cobwebs. Often, in so many people’s eagerness to clear away what they believe are cobwebs surrounding the birthrights they call relics, they soon discover they have forged their own chains.

I cannot, individually, stop people who are determined to clear away the Second Amendment, whether they are doing so in small pieces or plan to by one motion, but I can stand firm with others and keep them from tearing down this part of our national fabric. This is my vigilance. Each person must draw their own line; stand their own watch against the darkness and pray they have made the right decision. That is each person’s birthright.

Semper Fi

Next post, new subject.