Magazine article The American Conservative

Guns or Bitter

Magazine article The American Conservative

Guns or Bitter

Article excerpt

The Super Bowl is a mere anticlimax to the February edition of the triannual Alexander Gun Show, held earlier that day in a volunteer firemen's hall a mile south of the home of the late Barber Conable, the statesman who represented us in Congress for 20 years. Conable was a poetry-reciting antiquarian Iwo Jima vet who used to scour the show looking for Indian arrowheads to add to a collection he had begun in boyhood. Now that was an American.

The phrase "gun show" reduces Ellen Goodman readers to enuresis. Yet Alexander is basically a rural swap meet, as friendships are renewed and shotguns and ammo vended or traded of a Sunday morning. (The attendees have all gone to 7 o'clock mass, I'm sure.) Alexander Cockburn once wrote in the Nation that the populist Left ought to talk to the folks at gun shows; genuine democrats would come away refreshed by an encounter with working and rural citizens who are pro-Bill of Rights, anti-corporatist, and open to radical alternatives. Gene Debs and Huey Long and Norman Mailer would dig Alexander; a Democratic Party financed by Wall Street and choreographed by upper-middle-class hall monitors barely countenances these peoples' existence, though the lackbeards navigating the crowded aisles looking for a good cheap hunting rifle will make perfectly suitable corpses in whatever wars the think-tank commanders are drawing up in their tax-exempt covens.

I don't hunt, but my dad is an NRA member, and I grew up in a gun culture whose rate of violent crime is equal to the number of farmers in President Obama's cabinet. Contrary to the lurid imaginings of Beltway advocates of gun control--recently euphemized to "gun safety"--in Alexander I saw nary Crip nor Blood nor sullen stringy-haired school sniper in a Slipknot T-shirt stocking his armory.

I stop to chat--chat: what an epicene verb in this context!--with Mark Shephard and his parents Barb and Ken at their customary table. Shep has been my friend since I was 5 years old. We laugh about a previous Gun Show/Super Bowl Sunday, when, glutted on chicken wings and Genny Cream Ale, we watched Scott Norwood's 47-yard field goal sail wide right in the 1991 game, which carved out a regional slough of despond later visited by the right-wing Calvin Klein model Vincent Gallo's film "Buffalo '66."

Shep and I spent every other fall day of 1972 visiting McGovern headquarters in Batavia and stuffing our pockets full of "Remember October 9" buttons. …

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