It started small. Coming deep from a place of innocent courage which only a young man can feel and then only for a whisker of time. With a baby to feed and a home to protect, a wife to serve and vows to keep, one night he brings home a small fiberglass case within which rests the false hope of an amended constitution. Barely a quarter of an inch at the mouth of the bore, it is encased in custom cut foam with six shafts carved in for the bullets. There is oil to grease the spark and a cute little brush to keep it clean. This piece fits in his hand like the jaw bone of a small animal and he believes he will he never need more than this talisman to keep other animals from his door.
Starting small in this way, who would deny this man his sanity or his right to be safe and free? To know him is to love him. And if you understand the seeds of his reason then you understand his actions and what he might do next.
He is only your father and mine, a man who loves us so much that he would kill another man to save us.
But then his family begins to get larger and his work hours get longer and the pay checks don’t stretch as far and the taxes the government are taking are killing him. There are people of color moving into the neighborhood and men of terror kicking in the doors of the airplanes on which his friends and family fly. The government uses his money to protect the civil rights of criminals and third world thugs while his youngest son waits patiently for his older brother to outgrow his next pair of shoes. He remembers a time when as a young boy he collected stamps and coins, baseball cards and toy soldiers. And he thinks, why not. His hoarding served him well in the past, vesting him with control and a sense of power. He knows how obsession can bring focus and readiness and so it only makes sense to begin to collect again.
He is already well into middle age when he walks into a local gun mart to begin his collection in earnest. He wants to build wisely. But it doesn’t take long for him to see that if you can crave one gun you should crave them all. Sir, if you don’t care about accuracy and sheer stopping power is your aim, you can do no better than the 12 gauge pump action over and under. Then again if distance and precision are your goal - owing, let’s say, to a small group of armed men you need to stop at the crest the hill 100 yards from your home – well then you’ll want the hunter’s Westchester with a self-sighting scope and a modified clip. On the other hand for personal protection on those family outings, the 9 millimeter, with ten in the bank and one in the chamber, goes a long way toward showing the bad guys who’s boss and letting your wife and kids know that you’re the man (put it on our wife’s night stand and you might even get laid tonight ). If however - and I can’t sell it to you here - but if, god forbid, you should find yourself in one of those end-of-the-world situations where you need to set up perimeter fire (where you need to be both first and last), then I would recommend you check into the American Eagle assault; air cooled and rated at 20 rounds per second I’ve seen this little monster cut a pine tree in half in just under a minute. You can call this guy I know but don’t tell him you know me. Breathlessly, he hands over his driver’s license and speedily his background is checked after which a cart is stacked with boxes of weapons and holsters and straps. Two shopping bags full of ammunition are then piled on top, and a stock boy is dispatched to help him haul it all to his car. In the quiet of his front seat he sighs and grins and picks up his cell phone to buy the American Eagle. He wants that too and only hopes that he can also buy enough bullets at one time to last him for the rest of his life.
He is only your father and mine, and he loves his home so much that he could kill a crowd of people to save it.
For two years thereafter at night when his family is asleep, he goes to a room he’s etched out at the back of his garage and he counts and polishes, cleans, stacks and dreams, watching his collection grow bullet by bullet, piece by piece, month by month, his face glowing in the light of a halogen desk lamp. He seldom fires his guns, preferring to conserve his ammunition, but when he does, out in the woods in a place where no one ever goes, he sees himself as the last good man on earth, his wife and sons trailing behind him in his righteous footsteps. He loves the feeling of quiet freedom that comes over him as he fires – single fire, rapid fire, cascades of fire – parading explosions of liberty crashing against his brain pan, helping him think more clearly and more evenly then he ever can at home or at work, giving him the strength to endure what he now sees as the insane laws of an increasingly insane land. Then one day, just back from the woods, he turns on his TV and he too begins to go just a little insane.
There at home, within his flat screen, he finds politicians smugly rattling the swords of law, one of them loudly calling for a limit to the amount of ammunition one man can hold in the pockets of his person or the privacy of his private property. At a time when unbalanced ex-college students and disgruntled factory workers are being sucked in by a climate of political hate only to be extruded into America wrapped in belts of ammunition and pondering which congresswomen or senator they should murder, this politician is simply suggesting that it might make sense not to give these men or women enough bullets to kill an entire mall full of people. But these are our father’s bullets they’re talking about and by now his stocks of munitions have become that which makes him who he is today. Take them away en mass and you would rip out his wisdom and his soul. His very right to be.
Slowly he feels his self separating in two. He is a madman standing side-by-side with the loving husband and father wondering which one of them is real. Forcing his hands to work for both these selves he gets to a computer and finds the phone number of his senator. He dials the phone and when it is answered by a young and eager intern, our father is both pleased and terrified by the man who starts to scream into the phone. He startles the intern so much that there is momentary silence. Then suddenly he begins once more, this time more slowly.
Son, I am a father and I could be your father and the day our government tells me how many bullets I can and cannot buy is the day I can no longer be your father. Do you understand? Do you know how many guns I own? Do you believe in god? Why would the senator let this happen? Why would he limit my right to be free? I am an American. I will not be punished – my family and loved ones will not be punished - for the acts of criminals and crazy people. Let me tell you, son, right now I can understand why someone would want to kill a president or a member of congress or a judge. I can truly and goddamn well understand it. Yes sir son, I can really see how some people might start to feel that you and the rest of our government are the real enemy …
And then he stops. The selves have separated again but this time the loving father has been watching the madman. And he is frightened of himself.
He is only your father and mine, and he loves his country so much that he is afraid he might bring down our government to save it.
And Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan each say they loved their countries. And so did John Wilkes Booth and he was a father too. And John Hinkley and Jared Loughner each loved someone or something so much that they would kill to have it. And all of them had fathers who loved them. And through each of them runs a line to each of us. And through each of these assassins holding a gun or two or more, runs a line to all those fathers who have loved us so much that they would kill to save us.
But that does not make them right. And that does not make us free.