I had a “should have” moment last week, and it bothers me still. On a cold, windy Monday, I retrieved the large sign I had whipped together three years ago and drove forth once again. Destination? As before, the overflowing sidewalk before the headquarters building of the NSSF (National Sport Shooters [sheep's clothing for Gun Merchants] Foundation, the powerful association of arms manufacturers, and shadowy manipulator of Congress and the NRA). My sign, like each of the grand array of big signs, little signs, crude, elaborate, black, white, multi-colored, was unique. I doubt if any of the drivers passing by, honking, flashing thumbs up, could read one word, but they knew the sentiment and honked. In Sharpie Marker red and black, my sign spread out “R-I-G-H-T-S-?” across its four foot span followed by “Our Boys and Girls lost ALL of theirs, Sandy Hook Grieves.” Those Sharpie marks carefully “said,” on poster board in our quiet basement, more or less what I “should have.” I did pray when I drew them.
There were so many supporters and sign sporters that nearly half of us had flowed across to the opposite side of Wasserman's, where my sign and I struggled with the North Wind. And where we could see facing us a sprinkling of NRA signs and a dozen or so identical signs that read “NSSF blah blah something.” We were not totally as one, and when the police herded us across the street, we and “they” became co-joined, bumping shoulders and signs. How easily, across the street with my united, multi-signed comrades, had I dodged this moment. Now what?
A lady from Seymour named Patty and I had landed in a nest of NSSF sign wavers. A guy behind us said, “You're in the safest place in Newtown. Every one of us is carrying.” Patty muttered, “I don't feel so safe.” The big fellow next to her took over, a lieutenant colonel sort in mufti. He certainly had a strong voice and an endless store of marvelous statistics. How he went on. “Eighty three percent of Newtowners support the goals of the NRA” (or some such number or “fact”). “The NRA has spent so many hundreds of thousands (or millions?) of dollars on gun safety; you know how much you all have invested? Zero!” He cited half the amendments to the Constitution to prove that he was on close terms with the lot, not just the Second. He was a passionate true believer. I should have said . . . what?
Words? They'd have bounced like rubber bullets off a clanking tank. We're taught to resist evil and to love our enemies. Dang. What kind of a witness was I? I knew what to do, but how, especially when my very warm head, North Wind or not, was smoking with snappy responses? Fortunately, I suppose, Mr. Light Colonel just kept on talking. Patty's Christian smile seemed to soften his volume as she, spotting some friends, freed herself and departed. Moments later, when the North Wind (the Holy Spirit?) exhaled right through my down jacket and tried to rip that sign from my grip, I grunted, not too convincingly, “I love you,” and headed for my car. Oh well, self examination season approaches; perhaps a good Lenten wrestle with Monday's questions? I should. I should.
Sorry this is late, Partner. The Church printer has been down for two weeks. Make haste to be kind.