There is a saying someone very close to me uses when he wants to get a chuckle out of me, and it usually comes when we are discussing the demise of someone much less fortunate. “That dude has more issues than National Geographic.” I don’t know. It’s cute. It makes me laugh - most likely because I can relate, being the flawed human that I am. Volumes and volumes of issues. Please keep that in mind while I tell this story because I don’t want anyone to lose sight of the fact that while I have the issues, there are (just a few) things that I actually have no problem with whatsoever. One of those things is being corrected when I am wrong. I will go so far as to say that I, in fact, rather enjoy correction. This is probably one reason why I thrived in a military environment. (The times I didn’t do so well had to do with taking direction from bad leadership, but I digress.)
The moment that I am referring to happens with the realization that something you thought to be true for a really long time has no validity at all. I love that moment. I’m talking about the moment that prejudices are blown to smithereens. I love that. It reminds me of the time I was standing in a check-out line behind a young mother and her child. Both were white. Blaring through the overhead speakers was none other than the great Tone Loc belting out “Funky Cold Medina.” The little girl, who had to have been about three, was shaking what her mama gave her, little blond curls bouncing all over the place, when suddenly, her mama wheeled around and quite literally spat out the words, “What are you doing?? WE do NOT dance to this music.” The look of confusion on the little girl’s face was unsettling, but more so was the fact that her little joyous moment had been depleted within seconds. The little girl stood still and obediently beside her mother and turned around to look at me. I didn’t waste a nanosecond before I smiled at her, winked, and did a quick breakdown that might’ve make Shakira proud. The look then that she gave me was one of, “ohhhhhhh. That white lady is dancing to this music. Maybe we DO dance to this music.....,” and then she smiled. That was her moment, and her mother was never the wiser.
Flash forward thirty-or-so years to the world today where it seems as though there is a mass shooting every other day. A colleague of mine, who I know respects and admires me immensely (while obviously, knowing very little of what I do in my personal life) crossed paths with me at the fax machine in our office. While she was preparing her papers, she said to me, obviously referring to one of those events, “Do you believe that psycho had assault rifles??” (Again, these words were said with such disgust I wanted to look down at her shoes and see if she had stepped in something.) She went on, “I mean anyone who even has those things are total wackos.” (Now, here I find myself in a moment I don’t really like all that well. To shut up? Or not to shut up?) My reply was short, sweet, “Well, I’m not a wacko.” As her fingers immediately froze, hovering over the buttons she was trying to remember how to punch, I thought, “Ahhhhh. This is her moment.” What ensued was a really cool dialogue about firearms, the Second Amendment, mental health issues, and more. And it was good. She admitted to me right then that she was guilty of making assumptions about people and things of which she really knows very little. This encounter went well. They don’t always, I know, but the clue is to keep calm, remain respectful, and tell the truth. I know you’ve had similar experiences in your hallways at work, in classrooms, and at the local watering hole. Many who oppose our view will not be nearly as open as my coworker was that day, but if you keep your head, and show them the person they already liked before they knew you were a gun owner — or any other term that has you labeled unfairly — they will have no choice but to take a closer look at themselves. You may never see it, but, believe me, it does happen, and little by little, we can start breaking down the ridiculous barriers - the barriers of pride and prejudice and racism that have always been at the very root of the gun debate.
I would never go so far as to suggest that you make some grand announcement to the world about your guns. There is a level of discretion that has a very important place, but when someone throws out a blanket statement like the ones I know you’ve heard, it is your opportunity to do them the very kind service of giving them that moment. The great thing is, you may receive a moment of your very own. If you listen carefully, and look for it, you may see in your fellow citizen’s eyes the fact that they are just concerned about kids in school, about going to a crowded area. Maybe you’ll see they are just afraid of things that have been unknown to them for so long. Educate them. Kindly and with class.
Some of you may disagree with what I’ve said here, and as I’ve mentioned, I love being corrected when I’m wrong, so fire away! But don’t you dare tell me I’m wrong about Tone Loc. Anyone who hears “Funky Cold Medina” and doesn’t immediately get to gettin’ down clearly has more issues than National Geographic.