What I Learned at the Gun Show

Last Saturday, Jimmy and I dropped off Daniel at MIL’s house and went with my stepfather to the gun show being held at the fairgrounds.

Yeah, I know. That totally sounds like an activity you would expect me to engage in, right? After all, don’t I lean strongly to the left?

The truth is that we own guns.

Rest assured, we’ve followed all the requirements and are properly permitted. We take gun safety very seriously and have a gun safe that was selected after much research. It’s weird how shy I am to tell anyone we own guns. Gun ownership has become taboo, even in the South where I live.

I didn’t grow up with guns although I grew up around them. My parents didn’t own guns, but one uncle is a police officer and another hunted. Target practice was a common sound on a Saturday afternoon. Extended family had lifetime rights to hunt on our property, and it wasn’t unusual to have friends and family share deer meat with us.   Jimmy grew up in the suburbs, and it was he who wanted to get a gun. We own more than one.  We’re well prepared if the zombie apocalypse happens.

The gun show (technically the gun and knife show) is held 4 times a year, but I had never been before.  Jimmy had attended the previous one and after hearing about what he saw, I thought it would be fun to go.  Kind of like anthropological field work.

Overall the gun show was both less dramatic than I expected but still surprising.  At times it reminded me of a flea market. Vendors were hawking jewelry, t-shirts, coins, homemade jerky and camouflage in addition to the guns and knives I expected.  Music was blaring. Survivalists had several tables of MREs as well as water purification devices.  One vendor was selling hand-made baby clothes. As you might expect, there was a strong patriotic flavor, with signs proclaiming “Made in the USA” above stalls. One table displayed a Saddam Hussein-era Iraqi flag for sale.


Boots made in North Carolina

Boots made in North Carolina

T-shirts. The one in the middle is Hello Kitty w/ a gun. I snickered.

T-shirts. The one in the middle is Hello Kitty w/ a gun. I snickered.

Because who doesn't come to a gun show to buy baby clothes?

Because who doesn’t come to a gun show to buy baby clothes?

The people were diverse as well. I saw a variety of ethnicities and races, and I definitely wasn’t the only woman there.  Vendors were appealing to women by selling pink guns and accessories (gag). The show appeared to be a family affair with children and babies in tow. One woman carried a Coach purse.

Pink gun, ladies?

Pink gun, ladies?

More pink guns. This is how the gun industry appeals to women.

More pink guns. This is how the gun industry appeals to women.

Pink, camouflage bags, anyone?

Pink, camouflage bags, anyone?

It was bizarre, yet completely mundane at the same time.

I was disturbed by only 2 things I saw.

I had joked with Jimmy beforehand that I wanted to wear a shirt saying, “I voted for Obama and I support the 2nd Amendment. I’m your worst nightmare,” but he told me it wouldn’t be a good idea. And he was right. First of all, there was a clear assumption that if you were at the show, you were conservative, Christian and pro-life. This was literally displayed on t-shirts for sale along with other sayings like “I’ve got the Bible and the Constitution and that’s all I need” and “if you want to take my gun, you better bring yours with you.”  There was also a booth heavily promoting the 2nd Amendment and all the threats to it.  I really, really, really wanted to go over there and talk to them, but I wasn’t there to stir up trouble, so I swallowed my arguments and walked by.   Surely we can’t be the only left-leaning citizens who support the 2nd Amendment. Is it ridiculous to think that it might be possible to have representation at the show from the left as well? It brought home how polarized the electorate has become on issues like gun control and religion.

Those things were interesting but about what I expected. There was a table along the back wall that had bumper stickers with sayings that ranged from the patriotic to the insulting and downright scary about President Obama, public school, the government, etc. I stared at them for a long time, shocked to see such vitriol in print, in public. That people I knew or worked with might buy them, might believe them and display them proudly on their cars. Maybe I’m more naive than I thought.

The other disturbing thing was the preponderance of Nazi memorabilia. There were 2 or 3 tables selling flags, including the swastika flag. That was jarring. But by far the worst was the table with a full display of Nazi military items. I’m not certain if it was meant as some sort of military history display because it was next to items from the Vietnam war as well as guns from other countries. In addition to a German helmet, gun, and pictures there was a yellow felt Star of David with “Jude” on it, and a skeletal hand holding a dagger aimed at the star. Next to it was a paper with this quote attributed to Hitler on it:

“This year will go down in history! For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration! Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future!”

Umm.  Put the quote together with the other items, and I was nauseous. I’m assuming a human being wore that star and likely died with it. It was grotesque. My conclusion was that the people behind the display supported not only the 2nd Amendment but also looked to Hitler as a role model. Maybe that’s a stretch, but what else am I supposed to think?  It turns out the quote is falsely attributed to Hitler but is commonly found at gun shows. I wanted to ask the men behind the display about it and what point they were trying to make, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. I couldn’t bring myself to hear that they supported such a vile regime or found anything admirable in a man who was responsible for the deaths and sufferings of millions.  I don’t want to believe that there are people like that in my city, in my state. Maybe even in my neighborhood.

Trying to surreptitiously take the picture. My apologies for the blurriness.

Trying to surreptitiously take the picture. My apologies for the blurriness.

What I learned at the gun show is that I need to worry about the people along the fringes.

The Weight of Today

When I was 15 years old, I entered and won the Martin Luther King Jr speech contest in my county.  There weren’t many contestants – maybe 6 in total – and I was the only white person who entered (I think).   I don’t remember the exact content of my speech, but I started it off embarrassingly by singing the opening lines of The Everly Brothers’ “All I Have to Do is Dream.”  A cappella.  I’m cringing for myself as I think about it.  The speech was your basic naive, earnest entreaty to just get along and vanquish racism so that we can all achieve our dreams and that our country was founded on principles that could not possibly support barring another race from equality.

At that time, 1993, I was proud of myself for winning the contest.  Some of the older African-American competitors weren’t thrilled with my win although one, a popular senior, later congratulated me when we passed in the halls one day.  I thought my win showed that this very white girl cared about equality too.  She supported Dr. King’s message and legacy and is prepared to fight for equal rights, abhorring racism.

Now, when I think back upon that contest, I am mortified.  I’m mortified for that white girl who was so naive about race, race relations and equality.  I’m sure the speech was reasonably intelligent; I was a precocious student.  I can carry a tune, so although ridiculous, I’m sure the lyrics I sang weren’t excruciating.  I’m comfortable in front of a crowd thanks to my theater experience, so I probably spoke well.

But I am mortified.  First of all, I entered the contest for reasons that weren’t noble.  In my speech class, I had a friend who planned to enter and practiced her speech in front of us.  I loved this friend, but I was also envious because she was smart, talented and gregarious.  She seemed to suck up all the attention in the room because of her personality.  Everyone loved her.  Our teacher loved her too, and I felt like the 1st runner up or maybe even the 2nd runner up in everything to this friend.   I wanted to enter the contest and win because I wanted to be applauded, to show my teacher that I was talented and smart too.

This friend was also biracial.  I feel like such an asshole looking back.  This girl came from a stressful family environment, and I’m sure the teacher wanted to make sure she felt supported and encouraged to her reach whatever goals she set (as well as genuinely liking her I’m sure.  I don’t mean to imply the teacher’s attention wasn’t genuine).   My parents were divorced and remarried at this point, and we didn’t always have the best financial situation, but I never wanted for anything.  Never had to deal with abusive situations.  Never had to deal with being considered lesser just because of my skin color before I’d even opened my mouth.

And what the hell did I know about inequality at 15?  Nothing except a vague sense of how all races are equal and that everyone deserves the same chance to succeed without imposed obstacles due to attitudes, laws or beliefs.   This is the same girl who thought about living in the projects to counsel the residents that drive-by shootings are bad, mmmkay.

Hubris.  Pure and simple.

I know.  I’m probably being too hard on myself. After all, why should I expect 15-year-old KeAnne to have the wisdom and understanding that 35-year-old KeAnne does?  I’m fortunate that I can say I was naive and innocent in a time when so many 15-year-old deal with truths and realities much grimmer.

It’s not that I don’t believe that Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday is not my day to celebrate too.  I like to think that if I had been living during the Civil Rights movement, I would have marched with Dr. King.   I would have worked to help spread the message.  Maybe it’s part of my ISTJ personality type, but I believe deeply in fairness.  You use facts, reason and logic to make decisions, not rely on hazy, nebulous, arbitrary, and outright false information to legislate, especially when that legislation is propping up the white race and keeping others down.

I grew up in the South, and race can be tricky here.  I have relatives who wouldn’t think twice about using the “N” word or falling back on stereotype.  Although, now, with the influx of migrant workers, the target has shifted from African Americans to Hispanics. Progress?  However, because we were forced to integrate, in many ways, the South is more tolerant of race.  At least publicly.  You may say things behind closed doors that  you would never, ever utter in public, but you treat different races acceptably and appropriately in public.  Again, progress?  I don’t know.  I just remember that my Ethnic American Studies professor in college pointed out that fact, and I felt a bit proud of the much-maligned South.

Growing up and living in the South, I feel the weight of history and prior generations.  No, my family never owned slaves.  If anything, we were probably closer to being “crackers.” However, my county also boasts a much-celebrated former plantation.  It’s difficult to reconcile feeling proud of your state and ashamed for its past.  To want to shout, “but I’m not like that!  I don’t think that way!” and wonder what  you would have done if you had lived in the 19th Century.  To love Southern culture and cuisine and appreciate the African contributions to it. To wonder if your identity as a Southerner will always be tainted with racism, segregation and intolerance.

I wish I hadn’t won that speech contest.  I had no fucking idea what I was talking about.

Despite being older, I’m not perfect.  Far from it.  I still struggle with race.  10 years ago we built a house in a new development in Southeast Raleigh.  We picked out everything.  Jimmy visited it every day to observe its progress.  We were able to get 1800 square feet with a full basement for a great price.  In many ways, we gestated and gave birth to that house with the care and attention we put into it.

Southeast Raleigh is a lower-income area of the county.  It is filled with up -and-coming neighborhoods, but it is also heavily African American.  As was our neighborhood.  We weren’t the only white families, but we were the minority.   We made friends.  We planted grass and flowers.  And 2 years later,  we sold that house.  It was an accumulation of things: the fact that there were no playgrounds, so groups of boys roamed the streets.  The fact that graffiti was spray painted on our street.  The fact that yards weren’t mowed or taken care of and cars were parked anywhere.  The fact that we found out several houses were Section 8 and that many households were very behind on their HOA dues.  The fact that I never felt comfortable there.

We are still sad when we think about that house.  Sad we felt like we had to leave it because the neighborhood was going downhill.  And sad and embarrassed because I felt like I had tried to live in a more diverse area and failed miserably.  Utterly.  Maybe we are racist at heart.  When it came time to put my money where my mouth was, I failed.

Older KeAnne recognizes that real life is much more complicated than the idealism of her youth.  And it’s a lot more painful.


On another Martin Luther King Day four years ago, we met our gestational surrogate at the obstetrician’s office for the big ultrasound and discovered that our much-wanted and longed-for baby was a boy (I started this blog on the day before MLK 2009, so happy blogiversary?).  The next day, it snowed, and we joyfully watched the inauguration of Barack Obama, our first African American President.

We had so much hope and joy, both in anticipation for our baby boy and for what the Obama administration would achieve.  And 4 years later, we’re a little more cynical and tired, but still positive and hopeful.  I still believe that President Obama – if not obstructed by politicians who seek only to obstruct him – can and will achieve great things.  And our sweet boy, now a sassy, sensitive, sweet, smart (look at the alliteration!) 3.5 year old will be better than the generation that came before.  He will have grown up in a time when from before he was born, an African American was President and women served in high office.

My hope is that he will be free of a lot of the baggage we carry and that we are helping him to be that way.

Braindead Blather

‘Twas the night after the election…

No.  Just…no.

I’m rather brain dead tonight, so you will be treated to rambling and nonsense. Sorry.

  • My household is very happy with the outcome of the election (obviously).  I really hope that magically we can restore some civility to our discourse and not call the President of the United States very thinly veiled racial slurs or cast doubt upon his citizenship or devotion to this country any longer.  I also hope that somehow a sense of bipartisanship permeates DC.  I can dream, right?
  • I’m attending the Internet Summit tomorrow, so you might want to mute me for a bit because I will likely tweet a lot, but it probably won’t be snarky.  Maybe.  Depends on the speakers.  I’m excited to attend because I attended the first few years but missed the last 2, so it’s good to be back.  I love learning about the latest in social media, search and email.  And I’m out of the office.  What’s not to love?
  • Daniel and I had a delightful conversation tonight about what he wants Santa to bring him.  His mind is getting so complex!  I love discovering his little personality.  I wish we could buy him everything.  I know that would likely be a disaster, but oh, the urge to give him everything his little heart desires is strong.
  • Remember how on Sunday I extolled how our first day with the time change had been fine?  Well, then the work week started.  It’s dark when we leave daycare, which is jarring, and Daniel has been much closer to melting down since he’s had no nap and is up a little bit longer than he normally would be.  It’s like walking a tightrope, but so far we’re handling the change OK and avoiding horrific meltdowns.  Our hope is that by the weekend, he will have  adjusted to the time change. Pretty, pretty please with whipped cream and cherries on top.  Truthfully, I think that we’re going to have to split up daycare duties sooner rather than later and have Jimmy take him to daycare while I pick him up so that I can leave earlier.  It felt like we had so little time with him in the evenings already, but the time change has really exacerbated it.
  • We really, really, really want to see Lincoln.  Maybe we can see it over Thanksgiving.
  • I wish North Carolina had gone for Obama like in 2008, but I’m OK with the outcome although I am a little concerned at what the newly-elected state government will do to education.  Again, prayers for good sense and compassion would be welcome.
  • I need a new fiction book to read.  Any recommendations?

I think that’s all the blather I have.  I hope to resume more interesting and substantive posts tomorrow.  Have an awesome Thursday!


The Anxious Electorate

In case you haven’t heard, are an alien, or have been living under a rock, today is Election Day in the United States, and we are in the process of electing the next President of the United States.  Many of us hope the next President will be the current President which is sort of a Schrodinger’s Cat equation.

I think we all need a Xanax or Valium or a potent potable.  I am extremely anxious about the outcome of what is projected to be a very close election and based on what I’ve seen on Facebook and Twitter, many feel the same way.  What I don’t know is whether that anxiety is universal; my fellow Obama supporters are admittedly anxious, but I admit that it doesn’t appear that I follow many vocal Romney supporters or if I do, they are staying quiet or I am ignoring them.  Probably a mix of both.

I am nervous.  Four years ago, I watched triumphantly and emotionally as Barack Obama was elected President.  We were still in the first trimester with Daniel, and I felt that momentous things on top of momentous things were happening.  It was a brave new world.  That was probably a foolish, hyperbolic thought, considering how our government works and the reality of getting anything done in this country. But it seemed like old wounds could be healed and the potential for greatness was there.

I’m not saying the Obama has been a perfect leader.  Far from it.  I freely admit that he squandered opportunities and truthfully, Hillary Clinton was our candidate of choice.  But I believe in the Democratic party, and I believe that Obama has the intelligence and ability to make real change in Washington, change that this country desperately needs.

I write that and then I smile sadly because I fear the reality is that it won’t really make a difference which candidate is elected.  Obama will be obstructed by politicians whose primary goal is to make him fail (appalling) while Romney will be forced closer to the center than his party will like by Democrats.  More cynically, I wonder if any of our leaders or our system of government is prepared to make the revolutionary, incredibly difficult decisions we need made for a sustainable future.

Despite those cynical, dark thoughts, it is Election Day.  For a few more hours, we can sit on the edge of our seats, watching the will of the people revealed.  That is worth acknowledging and honoring and regardless of which candidate is elected, publicly I will respect him as the holder of the greatest office in the world.  I make no promises about what I say behind closed doors 😉

Election Day anxiety manifests itself in interesting ways.  When Jimmy was getting Daniel’s room ready tonight, he felt compelled to have the following conversation with the stuffed animals in Daniel’s room:

Jimmy: Well, cuddlies.  Today is an important day.  Today is Election Day.  I just wanted you all to know that we voted for cuddly rights today, and in our home, we support that any cuddly has the right to cuddle any other cuddly he, she or it wants.

Cuddlies: Silence.

OK.  At least the cuddlies know where they stand in our house.

Happy Election Day.  Let us all inhale and exhale, being thankful this day comes only once every four years.

Voting: My Sermon

Disclaimer:  I get a little political and ranty. 

Election 2012

I voted!

Today was the last day of early voting in NC, and I stood in line for an hour to cast my vote for Romney/Ryan.


It’s probably not much of a secret that I’m liberal and as likely to vote for Romney/Ryan as I am to use a comma splice in a sentence.  I promise this isn’t going to be an extremely partisan post.  Maybe.

I’ll be very happy when this election is over.  Yes, I am liberal and I vote the Democratic ticket exclusively, but truly?  I don’t think this election will change much.  I believe that Romney/Ryan could mean very terrifying changes for women in terms of status and reproductive rights, but I doubt they could get them passed.  Rhetoric on the campaign trail is very different from actually getting bills passed and laws changed.

I’m frustrated with the government like pretty much everyone regardless of party affiliation. Everything seems broken in Washington, and I really don’t think the election of Romney or Obama will do much to change that.  I’m not being anarchist or nihilist; I believe in government.  I believe in the need for a strong central government.  Hell, I’m willing to pay more taxes to ensure we have essential services.

I think what I’m mourning is the dearth of common sense and consideration of reality. It’s one thing to say government is too big and let’s cut food stamps, but what are you going to say to your constituent who relies on food stamps because her job doesn’t pay her enough to support her family?  Are you really going to tell her it’s her fault for not getting a better job?  Or call her lazy? Really??? Let’s acknowledge the fact that not everyone can have a high-paying job.  Someone has to do the jobs many deem beneath them.  Someone has to decide to teach public school instead of pursuing a private sector job that would likely pay more.  And your reaction is to punish them by implying they don’t work hard enough?  Or they should have made better choices?

Where is the esprit des corps in this country? Americans have always been individualists, but our history is full of major examples of where we pulled together to do the right thing.  I don’t see that any longer.  Today it is too much about me, me, me and fuck you if you don’t like it.  I don’t think that’s a sustainable mindset for a nation.

There’s a lot about the current election that concerns me.  Why are reproductive rights a huge issue in 2012?  Why are women still paid less than men by default?  Why are we still debating the legality of same-sex marriage in terms of civil unions? Why in the world is the definition of rape up for debate? Why do candidates continue to posit that the government should be run like a business when if that were the case, many, many essential programs – probably more than many realize – would no longer exist.

And the tone.  Can’t forget the tone.  I believe that the office of President deserves respect.  Whether you like the incumbent or not, there is a certain amount of respect accorded.  I didn’t like George W. Bush, but he was our President, and he deserved my respect.  The allegations and comments about President Obama have been outrageous and unbelievable.  It’s hard for me not to believe that they stem from racism.  The Republican party knows better, and I condemn them for appealing to their party’s basest instincts in order to get ahead.  It is deplorable, and I cannot state that emphatically enough.  DEPLORABLE.  Character assassination.  Don’t like President Obama?  Fine.  Decide your vote based on his record and the realities of legislating with a Congress determined to obstruct every move (I swear, they would have contradicted him if he said the sky was blue).  But don’t decide your vote because of stupid shit allegations that he wasn’t born in this country, didn’t deserve admission to Harvard, his race, etc.  That just makes us all look stupid, and I believe we are better than that.

A little over 250 years ago, we did something pretty remarkable.  We told our colonial overlords to go fuck themselves and backed it up militarily.  We created a new nation based on principles of equality and fairness.  If the same challenge presented itself today, I wonder what the outcome would be.  Would we be able to get it together to fight a common foe or would ideological differences tear us apart?

Election day is in 3 days.  Please, go vote.  Exercise your hard-won right.  But think.  Please think hard about who you are voting for and why.   Please base it on reason and research.  It’s the future of our nation you are voting for, and that nation includes everyone, not just those in your party.

#HomeHer12: What I Did While You Were at BlogHer12

The blogosphere was quiet late last week and over the weekend because more bloggers than you can shake a stick at were in NYC attending BlogHer 12, a huge annual conference with lots of swag, lots of brands, lots of parties and oh yeah, informative content as well.  The 5000 bloggers also heard from notable speakers such as President Obama, Martha Stewart and Katie Couric.

Unfortunately I was unable to attend this mother of all blogging conferences, but do not cry for me, blogosphere, because it turns out my weekend was almost like being in NYC.  A recap of HomeHer12:

I spent quality time with one of my roommates by helping him vomit in sanctioned receptacles and cleaning it up after he woke up with a “sour stomach.”

Always fun to start your day cleaning vomit

I encountered a few divas and catty behavior.

I took in a show.

I wore amazing outfits that were the envy of all I encountered.

So stylish

I ate amazing food I couldn’t get anywhere else.


I braved the crowds and went shopping.

Tax-free weekend equals shoe shopping FAIL

I managed multiple devices during conference sessions while enjoying a glass of wine.

Again while fabulously attired.

I also had a quick visit with fellow blogger Brandy and her super adorable new baby (no pictures unfortunately).

See?  Just like being at BlogHer!

If you attended BlogHer, tell me about your experience.  If not, what was the highlight of your HomeHer12 weekend?

Wordless Wednesday: The President of the United States

Ticket for admittance to President Obama's speech at NC State today

Why yes, I did spend my lunch with President Obama. Only I was with about 13,000 other people, crammed into Reynolds Coliseum (which has no air conditioning by the way). Lunch was three tic-tacs. Obama’s speech was great, though, and it was even sweeter because a client of my company’s was the recipient of his plant visit and its CEO introduced President Obama. Definitely one for the memory book.