I was invited to go to a Gun Show at the Manatee County Civic Center with a friend of mine and his girlfriend. This is not generally an affair I would choose to willingly attend. However, I had nothing better to do and it seemed like a good place to do some people watching. My assumption was spot on.
There were people there from all walks of life, but mostly from one walk of life. “Gun toting, meat eating fucking people” as Denis Leary would call them.
As we walked toward the venue from the parking lot, we came upon a sign that had two arrows pointing in opposite directions. One indicated the way to the “Suncoast Gun Show” and the other led people to the “Coleman and Pascall Wedding Reception.” I thought to myself, “Two Roads Diverged at a Civic Center, and I... I took the one more camouflaged.”
There were less people in camouflaged shirts, hats and pants as would have initially expected, but despite their lack of urban invisibility they had the other traits I was expecting. I even enjoyed the irony in the “Safe Place” sticker on the window of the ticket booth that was blocked by a man holding two large caliber hunting rifles in each hand. He put them down only to reach into his pockets to get his wallet and pay his entry fee.
Inside, I encountered many people with whom I would normally not coexist. There were plenty of anti-Liberal t-shirts with slogans demeaning our current President (apparently they want to keep their guns, and he can keep the change). Many others had rifles draped over their shoulders with signs signifying the make, model and year; as well as their asking price. Each person was there to either buy, sell or appreciate the art of weaponry.
I, on the other hand was a conscientious objector wearing a “Peace Sign” t-shirt and a pair of sandals. It was quite obvious that I did not belong there. Yet, only one person made specific mention of it at a volume I could detect. A young boy looked at my shirt and said to his father, “Why is that guy here?”
I did not respond to him, because I didn't feel I had to explain myself to an eight year-old with a rat tail. I could have told him that I was indeed a fan of semi-automatic weaponry and other such death devices, but also an advocate for peace and diplomacy, further citing my duality with a reference to Full Metal Jacket. But again, it wasn't my place to defend myself or learn that child on the art of being a well-rounded citizen, or even teach him about classic cinematic characters like “Private Joker” and “Animal Mother.” Plus, I doubt he would comprehend what the words pragmatism or dehumanizing mean. I am quite sure they would go over his head, slide down his rat tail and scurry onto the floor to be crushed by an oncoming standard issue Army boot.