I stared at the revolver on the coffee table knowing I’d better not touch it. Dad had said not to. I took a few steps, inching closer to the shiny, black object. I peeked around and sure enough, there he stood in the kitchen doorway watching to see if I was going to obey his orders or dare risk getting a spanking. I was eight and ever since a loaded gun has been as much a part of the décor in my house as the vase of flowers on the fireplace and the Holy Bible with the cover size picture of a bearded Jesus on the front.
Grandpa insisted no one set anything on that bible—not a tissue—not a tablet. It was respected … so were guns … so was the premise of protecting those you love by force if necessary. Every day, guns in the hands of the trained and untrained alike, do just that. They run off thieves and protect people from impending assaults. They stop violators in their tracks and deter crimes against humanity.
Those same firearms, in the hands of those with malevolent intent, inflict limitless injury to the innocent and unsuspecting—to random individuals and to massive crowds. Every hour, every day, guns are used to defend freedom and to blast it to smithereens.
My sons grew up in a house with guns and usually travelled in a car where a gun was locked and loaded. Guns symbolized protection, not violence. Guns showed that we respected our family, our neighbors, enough to protect ourselves. Fortunately, growing up, none of my family members had to shoot anyone—and none were shot.
That is until last month when, my eldest, Gabriel, after only four days on patrol as a police officer in Columbia, South Carolina, shot a man who was on a rampage in a store parking lot—the same man who had just shot an elderly gentleman at a gas station. I have no doubt Gabriel’s tattoo speaks his intent, “Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for a friend.” I’m also undoubtedly thankful he didn’t have to.
Here in the U.S.A. we enjoy the freedom to travel, speak, worship and live pretty much unencumbered. There are exceptions to this freedom, but in various other countries, our exception is their norm. Our laws, as constricting as they often are, form a perimeter within which we can enjoy boundless freedom. Compared to other countries whose dictators oppress the masses and whose laws prevent freedom, Americans enjoy a multi-faceted array of choices.
Sometimes, however, our laws are so restricting that citizens must renegotiate the boundaries of public safety in order to ensure personal freedom. Still, the knowledge that an invisible boundary exists—even if it is flexible—allows us to run full-throttle through the fields, chasing whichever dreams we want—dreams that begin as an idea—dreams that allow us to cultivate the seeds of curiosity, to explore our world and experience each day with fresh yearning.
Freedom within is certainly enhanced by our freedom without. Thanks to everyone, both uniformed officers and guardians in plain clothes who ensure we have boundaries—boundaries that are “Indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”
Michele can be reached at www.michelezirkle.com or www.rainnoevil.com. Access more at soundcloud.com\lifespeaks.