These times, they are a’changin’

Two things of personal interest to me happened today; and, they both involved my parents.

The first was what I received in the mail today: a priority envelope containing three magazines and a small note from my mom. The magazines were the special edition issues of Time and Newsweek detailing the 9/11 attack. I knew the package was coming, and what it contained; but, seeing the explosions, the rubble, and the firemen again really struck me in an odd way. Seeing them in bold and vivid 8″x11″ color, and knowing that what I now held in my hand, had been a part of everyone’s reality more than a month ago, made the events depicted seem almost surreal… like a dream that we all just woke up from. But they’re not any dream that I’ve ever had, and I realize that. I’ve not peeled back the covers of the magazines, yet, and I probably won’t for a while to come. An excerpt from the letter:

Because it is so important and will affect all of us for a very long time, I felt it was necessary to see, if only from afar, the face of Evil.

The second was a conversation I had with my parents tonight. I’d not talked to them for a while, and wanted to catch up. Keep in mind that they live in eastern Virginia, that my dad works at the Pentagon, and that they are inundated by news of the attacks, the subsequent anthrax scares, and the news from The Hill more than I am, out here in the Land of Peace and Love.

We were talking about work, the dismal Redskins record, and my new camera when this happened:

Dad: Do you want to do some more research? [editor’s note: I often “do research” on things for them like, cell-phones, computer stuff, etc. Having just talked about my digital camera, it seemed a reasonable question.]

Son: Sure, what about?

Dad: Your mother is thinking about getting a gun.

Son:

Mom: With the way things are around here, there are so many crazies, we’re starting to think we may need to protect ourselves!

Let me just interject and say that I am not against guns, or responsible gun ownership. Shooting is something that I can sheepishly admit to being good at, and some of my best times have been going to the shooting range with my dad. We don’t own any guns (save for my young teen air rifle), and as a family have never gone hunting. My dad was in Vietnam, but is not a violent man, or even fit anything even close to the military stereotype.

Son: A gun? Why would you want to do that? What kind?

Dad: Well, the decision comes down to a handgun, or a shotgun.

Son: Well a shotgun is scarier looking, which may be good enough…

Dad: Yeah, I’m just afraid that with a handgun that your mother would get nervous in the middle of it all and jerk the trigger…

Son: and shoot right over his head…

Dad: right, and miss everything. That’s why were thinking about a shotgun.

Son: But you realize that if you have a gun, you need to prepare yourself to kill someone.

Interjecting again…I have never had the guts to ask my dad if he killed anyone in Vietnam. I’m afraid of what the answer might be, either way.

Son: I mean, a gun for the shooting range or something is one thing, but…

Dad: Shooting rang, schmooting range, they’re the same thing.

Son: True, you would then have the power to end someone’s life, instantly. And even if it was someone trying to rob or hurt you, if you killed him, you would have to live with that for the rest of your life.

Dad: That’s very true.

Mom: It’s just that there are so many crazies out there, and we don’t know what to do. We feel like we need to have something for “just in case”

This was possibly the most chilling conversation I had ever had with my parents. It was light, and undramatic, but it reverberated in my head long after I hung up the phone. I couldn’t imagine my sweet, little, 5’0″ tall mother raising her hand with vengeance against another human being. It made me shudder, it made me imagine, it made me wonder what was happening in the world.

I want them to be safe, and I know they would be responsible; but, that is not the point. Vague concepts like “war” are easy for me to accept, mostly because they do not happen where I can see them. They are diluted by the television signal passing through my clean apartment and around my distractions of Playstations and books and friends and laughing. The thought of killing on a personal level is altogether different to me. It hits home, and it shakes me.

I suggested that they consider a taser or stun-gun instead, and that gave them pause. This is something that I will have to consider for a while�

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