Not a topic I usually think or talk about, and certainly not one that I have any substantial experience or conviction about in order to participate in topical debates.
However, topicality (topical-ness?) is what this entry is about today.
Guns, their use, control and regulation, and the need for their ubiquity, is certainly topical; and I am distraught as a mother for the parents of the kids who died in America over a week ago. Today, I am writing about something quite separate from this tragedy, and I don’t intend it to be related in any way.
However, when the news events watched on tv, things you read, listen to and hear about in other people’s conversations are about the same theme over and over again in the space of a week, they become connected – it is like the universe is trying to send a message. For me, these last 10 days have been about guns, and their uses.
Like I said, this is not a topic that usually, even remotely, ever touches my life. So with this synchronicity of messages, I thought I should start paying attention.
I live in a country with gun control. I had never known anyone who owned a gun. I had never ever ever had the urge to go near one myself. I ban toy guns from our house. But now guns have entered my personal existence.
Just after the tragic shootings, I heard of the theft of my neighbour’s guns at the top of the valley. My sleepy valley. I had been aware that all my neighbours owned guns, and it bemused me in the kind of, I live in the wild west but not really, way. My neighbour pretty much knows who it was. But I wondered – why on earth did he need 5 guns?? What sort of frontier land was I living in?
A playdate with other children found my son running around with one of their toy guns, and my inevitable awkward conversation where I start with the fact that I have banned toy guns, then realise that this is a mother who has bought a toy gun, and I continue with, ‘but he seems to have always picked up sticks, pointed them at others and made a ‘pew pew’ noise.’ And then the shared conclusion that it must be innate in boys…
Then I watched a Louis Theroux episode the other night on game hunting in Africa. And it left me pondering and bringing up arguments pro and con for days after. I was annoyed with the attitude that Louis took from the outset: a ‘humanistic’ approach which I usually agree with, and I why I like his take on different topics. Not so this time. I didn’t even think I would have enough interest to watch African game animals being shot by American hunting tourists.
But I watched it, and found myself nodding in agreement with some of their arguments. The game animals range freely, their meat is then given to villagers, the sport provides income where cattle farming has failed. What is the difference between raising cattle or lions to be shot?? Apparently, according to Louis, a lot. The hunters trotted out the same argument I have heard from vegetarians – the hypocrisy of people who will eat meat from the supermarket, but find the practice of killing animals for meat abhorrent.
And I agree. And so does the guy from Whole Larder Love. A blog I accidentally stumbled across this week written by a ‘survivalist’ who hunts his own meat, mostly rabbits and by the looks of it, snails, and provides sumptuously photographed recipes. He has a book which I was compelled to purchase as a Christmas present to myself, despite the niggling voices – maybe I should become a vegetarian to lighten my footprint, be more ethical, etc etc. And of course, the question, could I even skin or pluck an animal myself????
The next missive from the universe came yesterday when I walked passed a brown snake next to my vegetable beds. Moving breathlessly and slightly panicky-ly inside I told the kids. Like it was the end of the world. One of the kids from next door helpfully asked if I wanted her to ring her dad to bring his gun over. Not a second thought went into it. So over he came and shot the gun twice in front of my kids, who were thrilled by the booming noise up close, and me slightly concerned about potential holes in my water tank. But also secretly thrilled myself as I have never ever ever seen a gun go off in ‘real life’.
This realisation shook me. And that’s when all the other pieces of the week started to form a pattern. I had been anti-guns when they never touched my suburban life. But now that I am living a more ‘raw’ life, where shooting is for protection and sustenance of life, guns are making a little more sense.
When I told my sister this, she asked me if this means I am going to go down to the shooting range. No. But I am now more open to discussions about appropriate gun use.
I am still trying to work out the message, and why the urgency in sending it to me this week.