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  • Writer's pictureSharon Gubbay Helfer

Guns and Politics

March 2, 2020

One of my flamenco friends warned me, “Where you’re going they, say ‘Don’t Mess with Texas!’: Be careful … Ce n’est pas Montréal!!” There is a sense that Texas people are un-nuanced gun-toting Trump supporters, ready to explode into violence if provoked.

Of the many layers and threads making up this San Antonio adventure, this is one. At the visceral level: Will I be safe? But also: will I be walking through a looking glass into a totally different world, perhaps a dangerous and violent one?

Just one week after leaving Montreal, I think the answer has got to be yes, and no. Clearly, it is complicated!

Here are a few pictures and some reflections:

Police officer walking in front of us on the way to Pearl Market complex.

Sign on a lawn just down the block from where we are staying ...

Gas station on the drive down, featuring a variety of gun-shaped BBQ lighters including "Dominate the Grill"

A very different gas station, in Jackson , TN

Gun Shows: a culture I've never been part of and don't expect I ever will be ...

ABOUT GUNS: Driving down to SA with Peter, one of our activities was to read to each other a long Harper’s article recommended by my high school friend Sandy Montgomery, entitled “Happiness is a Worn Gun”. Author Dan Baum, “a fairly typical liberal Democrat” became enamored of guns when, “as a fat kid at summer camp—the one thing I could do was lie on my belly and shoot a .22 rifle”. Lots of surprising info in this article, including that “the only state where anybody over sixteen from any state can walk around secretly armed inside its borders” is not Texas, as most people guess, but Vermont. Dan Baum’s ability to “pass” between the gun culture and his home buddies yields fascinating vignettes of what is out there as well as how Dan struggled with the different dimensions of what he was feeling and thinking and the conclusions he reached.

One takeaway from this article has now entered Peter’s and my vocabulary. It comes from something Dan Baum quotes from NRA’s America’s 1st Freedom magazine. “Its editorial captured perfectly the class-based resentment that permeates modern gun culture, characterizing the opposition as ‘those who sip tea and nibble biscuits while musing about how to restrict the rest of us.’”

Peter and I recognized ourselves class-wise as “biscuit-nibblers” although we may not feel the epithet contains everything of importance about us :-) Nonetheless, as we strolled about in the close-by Pearl Brewery Complex, described by the Globe and Mail’s Dreamscapes magazine as “San Antonio’s hippest new neighborhood”, we could not help but notice a significant population of biscuit nibblers.

CHILDREN DETAINED IN CAGES. I had been following sporadically and at a distance the stories of family separation and detention at the US border with Mexico, including Texas. Suddenly I felt responsible. Guilty, insecure, responsible. If I am going to be living in Texas and abhorrent human rights violations are part of what goes on there, I need to know about it. I felt that perhaps one of my early activities should be to go down there and investigate, see for myself. Our readings left me with the conclusion that the question, “What is mine to do?” remains relevant here, as it has been through the past months and years. If I want to get involved I can find out whom to work with, who is doing what. Otherwise, the reality is that abuses are multiple, everywhere, really everywhere. It is up to me to choose what small part is given to me to play, and to do my best to play that part with engagement and passion.

DRUG CARTELS. I wanted a mystery novel set in San Antonio and this is what I found, by Allison Brennan: Best Laid Plans, a Lucy Kincaid mystery. While the kind of local color I was hoping for is absent, this book alerted me to the presence of drug cartels in San Antonio. Difficult to know where to get reliable information but here is one article that involves the “East Side”. Further, when our charming landlady Maria Helena, a parole officer, was telling us about San Antonio and what is and isn’t safe, she suggested that we not venture onto the East Side alone at night. For me it is important to be alert to the different dimensions and layers here. I believe this is one, I could be wrong. Nonetheless, I expect that this will have zero effect on our lives here; hope I am not wrong about that!

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