“The Old Pistol”, mixed media by Kerry McFall
I made this painting last year in Tennessee, showing one of the keepsakes from my husband’s family which surfaced after his brother’s funeral. In the excitement of my daughter’s Christmas wedding, I don’t think I ever got around to posting it here on my blog. But today, the day after another slaughter of innocents here in my home state of Oregon, it seems appropriate.
We Americans need to talk to each other. To communicate. To think together. We’ve got to figure this out. Not scream at each other, not shake our fists and our heads, not fall back on the old “tried and true” battle cries about gun control vs. constitutional rights, but really put our heads together and figure something out. Nobody has to be right, nobody has to be wrong, but we are broken. Here’s what I wrote to my U.S. Senators and Representatives this morning:
“Let’s talk about freedom and security, the concepts that anchor the Second Amendment. Are we free? Are we secure? Security is really all about fear, so we also need to ask ourselves: what are we afraid of?
Do I feel secure because the old guy down the block has a couple of deer rifles in his closet, just in case some college frat boy gets so drunk he tries to go in to the wrong house?
Do I feel secure because the woman at the desk next to mine has a concealed carry permit and a small handgun in her handbag?
Do I feel free when I’m not allowed to take my wine corkscrew on a plane?
Do I feel secure when I go to the movie theatre here in little Corvallis, Leave It To Beaverville, and the teenage ticket taker asks to look in my handbag? And what is she, all 110 pounds of her, earning minimum wage and with no relevant training, supposed to do if she does find a gun?
Do I feel free OR secure because I know that any bat shit crazy yahoo can go down to the gun store on the Highway and buy a semi-automatic weapon? And walk into a community college classroom with it? And murder – wait, how many innocent people is the count up to now?
You and I grew up with duck and cover drills, afraid of “The Russians” (who are still kinda scary). My grandchildren are growing up with Lockdown Drills, afraid of … who? Us. Any of us, all of us, “Bad Guys with Guns.” Not bad guys with knives, or corkscrews, or chainsaws. With guns. When we are this scared and angry and confused, none of us are free, and none of us are secure.
Let’s work on this. Thank you.”
Looking at that old gun is instructive, especially today. I think it’s probably one of a pair of dueling pistols. I don’t know how old it is, several hundred years I imagine, but it was clearly intended to fire one shot. If you couldn’t hit your mark in one, you were done. Pure and simple. It is a work of art in its own right – silver, mahogany perhaps, polished to perfection, mounted on velvet. It was revered by generations, passed along, cared for, exhibited with pride. It was probably around when the 2nd amendment was written, when one of the worst fears of our forefathers was not being allowed to defend themselves against foreign armies. Its one-shot original owners couldn’t have begun to imagine the destructive technology that holds us all hostage today. We owe it to ourselves, and to them, to figure out how to cope with this monster we have created.
My Dad and my uncles were all soldiers and hunters. I grew up around guns. Old guns. Buckshot was about as high tech as it got. I’m realizing as the day goes on that the questions I asked in my letter, except the last one, are questions that on any given day I could answer either way. At 4:00 a.m. with a big jerk in my back yard trying to pry open my emergency food supply, I might be pleased to see that old guy with his deer rifle, assuming the cops were busy dealing with the 9.2 earthquake damage down the street… There are no easy answers. We all need to be a part of this conversation. Write to your legislators. Talk to your neighbors. Think. Listen.