Minor Details

I’ve been ghost for a few weeks, I know. As you might have guessed, the new school year has crept up on me with all the force of a raging bull. This video pretty much sums up how I’ve felt over the last few weeks of woeful attempts to tame the coming semester.

One of the inevitable obligations of a new school year is the deluge of meetings. Meetings upon meetings about meetings in preparation for meetings. I was appointed to one committee that has a subcommittee called the Committee on Committees. I’m actually sitting in a meeting right now (don’t tell the powers that be). Ah, the joys of higher education.

One of the meetings earlier this week was our Crisis Preparedness seminar. Last year, this festive event was all about rolling out the red carpet for the FBI’s new Oscar-worthy Run, Hide, Fight! video. And there was also a spiel about how wasp spray is actually more effective than OC spray against attackers (yeah, um, no). This year, the life of the party was Tennessee Public Chapter 1061, which took effect on July 1. That’s the new law that I was so excited about a few weeks ago, which finally restored my Second Amendment rights on campus. Yay! So our campus police chief gave an overview of the broad strokes, and then the Q and A began. Oh my sweet baby Jesus.

One lady ticked off ten or twelve iterations of “So this law means I can take my gun to [insert frequented location here], right?” The more she outed herself as a not-so-concealed carrier, the more her public tirade of self-righteousness further obfuscated the critical confidentiality provisions of the law. I really wanted to stand up and say, lady, you’re not helping. You’re just not. Yes, you have a right to carry. Congratulations. But it’s not something you do because it’s cool or popular. And screaming “I gotta gun” from the rooftops has tactical disadvantages that defeat the very purpose of carrying for personal defense in the first place. Ugh. Pet peeve of mine.

Then there was the art teacher. Now, anybody who reads my blog knows I hate stereotypes. But I must say, the sheer doggedness with which this guy embodied every conceivable stereotype for an artisan was nothing short of mind-numbing. Curly, poufy, white boy afro. Wrinkled, unkempt, ill-fitting clothes (I guess we’re kindred spirits on that front, as I never met an iron I was excited to deploy). Misbuttoned shirt with crinkly collar. Obliviously amicable smile. Mr.-Rogers-esque disposition. Unnaturally melodious, disarming voice. I’m sorry to dwell on this, but the guy was right out of central casting. Just the kind of dude you see and think to yourself, Man, I bet he can paint his ass off.

Anyway, Mr. Rogers rose to speak. He asked the Chief what consequences he would face if he chose to post a sign banning guns in his office and in his classrooms, essentially thumbing his nose at the new law. The Chief was stumped and had to admit that there probably weren’t any real consequences, other than the fact that such a sign would be unenforceable. So Mr. Rogers then announced to the group that this is precisely what he planned to do, and he encouraged everyone else who opposed campus carry to do the same, in protest.

That led to more vocal murmurs of unrest. People hypothesized about petty squabbles erupting into firefights and guns autonomously “going off.” But the one thing I heard more than anything else was fear of an avatar — the disembodied, nonspecific “type of person” who would ever dream of carrying a gun. What if they get mad? What if they have a bad day? What if they are stressed out? What if they are reprimanded? Suddenly, the Artisan’s idea of a grassroots obstruction campaign started picking up steam.

And then it occurred to me. All of these people are so worried about confrontation. And yet, right now, in this room, in this discussion, who is being more confrontational – the gun people, or the anti-gun people? Isn’t it ironic that their purported means of opposing confrontation is to provoke it? Who is stoking more unrest: the melodious Mr. Rogers?  Or the silently attentive young lady sitting in the back corner with two guns and a spare magazine concealed on her person?

The argument seemed to be this: “Guns are only carried by people who like conflict, and I don’t like conflict, so I’m going to provoke conflicts with the gun people in order to get rid of guns.” Huh? I needed clarification. So I worked up the nerve to approach Mr. Rogers one-on-one after the meeting. I asked about the possibility that taunting people with a provocative sign might stir precisely the sort of trouble he purports to oppose.

His response was something along the lines of, “Well, maybe it’s good to cause a little discomfort. Sometimes the struggle for progress is uncomfortable.” And then he quoted some other lofty civil rights clichés. I reminded him of the inconvenient argument that gun control started as a way to oppress black people, which would seem to kick the soap box right out from underneath his message. He conceded that my point was an “interesting” one, but nonetheless retreated back to the solace of his own.

Super-nice guy. We had a very pleasant conversation. He listened with seeming openness and curiosity, but I’m not sure how much he heard. Still, I think I might have gained a kernel of trust, because he let me in on his secret plan to paper all the chairs of the University Center Ballrooms with flyers listing the names of all the victims of school shootings from across the country in the last several years. This, he hoped, would be a jarring wake-up call for the two thousand faculty members scheduled to meet there the following day. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the faculty meeting was actually not being held in the ballrooms, but in another building on campus. Minor details.