Us vs Them. Again.

I’m tired of all the culture wars – abortion, guns, gay marriage. We are tangling ourselves into all manners of impossible knots.

Let me back up.

Hometown grocer Kroger is, uh, caught in the cross hairs between Moms Demand Action, requesting that Kroger prohibit people from openly carrying guns in their store and the equal and opposite reaction to that request.

I’m not a gun owner, I don’t support unfettered access to weapons, I wish we had politicians with enough balls to tell a well-funded groups like the NRA to go jump off a cliff and start representing their constituents. I’m concerned about our collective paranoia – convinced that the ghettos are about to burst, that government Humvees are heading into our neighborhoods, that zombies might soon rise. Like that murderer in Detroit, people believe that if we can’t find our cell phones it’s OK to kill — shoot first and ask questions never. Our collective obsession with firearms is heading nowhere good. We’re twitchy and delusional about our own might.

I’m equally unswayed by the “principled” talk of Second Amendment absolutists. The so-called founding fathers, as smart as they might have been on some issues, lived in entirely different times. Technology, circumstances, cultural beliefs have changed and evolved. What John Adams may or may not think about a world which he did not inhabit is entire irrelevant to me. We are not pillars of principles living in silos. We are humans, living at a point in time and space who need each other to survive. We would do well to behave accordingly.

However…

I’m also pragmatic.  I know my vision of an unarmed nation will never be realized in the United States. Even if I could stop all gun sales today, there would still be a stockpile of weapons; probably more guns than people. And despite my love for this XTC song, I know it’s not going to happen.

To summarize, I’m a person who hates guns, doesn’t own a magic wand, and desperately wants us all to learn to live together.

Ergo, I am also turned off by that other extreme – those who ignore the reality of gun ownership in America and seek to marginalize gun owners by portraying them as toothless, inbred, Duck Dynasty whackadoodles.

Posturing only accomplishes one thing – making the knot more impossible.

So what about Moms Demand Action?  Despite what you might have heard on a certain cable news channel, it is no secret that this group is funded by Michael Bloomberg. They have successfully persuaded other stores, like Target, Chipotle, and Starbucks to request that customers leave their guns in the car. And I have signed every single petition. I get that our government has become impotent from gridlock and we need to organize.

But…

How big of a victory are these campaigns? More importantly, what is the cost? Are we sacrificing long-term progress for short-term gains?

Might we win the battle for retail establishments but in doing so, make people so entrenched that we will lose the battle elsewhere; perhaps in areas that might matter more?

I live in Ohio, the grandaddy of all battleground states, just outside Cincinnati.  We have a Democratic city government, a Republican county government, and a solidly Republican state government.  We’ve been crucial electoral votes in the last four elections, helping to put and keep both Bush and Obama in office.

I live outside the main highway loop on the edge of affluent suburbs and old-school rural Appalachia. I shop, usually daily thanks to the teenagers in my house, at a Kroger around the corner from me, an energy-efficient store built on land owned by Jean Schmidt and family.

And here’s the thing.  I’ve never, not even once, have seen anyone with a gun at Kroger. Or Target, Chipotle, or Starbucks for that matter.

So what’s the hubbub, bub?

If I did see someone come in a store brandishing a weapon, I would likely crap in my pants, pray feverishly, and run out the door.

Probably all at once.

After all, how would you know WHY someone in the cereal aisle has an AK47?  And I don’t want another twitchy wannabe hero with adrenaline coursing through his veins trying to sort it all out on the spot. No good can come of it.

Life isn’t a John Wayne movie.

And I think most people agree with me.  Like most, most people. But this campaign seems to have sent people running to their corners.

One facebook friend implored me to open my mind and understand that open carry extremists don’t represent gun owners any more than that god hates fags group represents Christians. I believe that’s true, but I’m lacking in concrete proof because I don’t see many gun rights activists denouncing open carry extremists.  Instead, they attack Moms Demand Actions and the most mysterious and ephemeral of all bogeyman, The Liberal Agenda.

Same friend also encouraged me to engage open carry activists.  Honestly, I’m not interested in picking fights with people carrying rifles, but I have spent time reading message boards. They are mostly full of childish insults and paranoia, but I do understand that some of these activists believe that this issue has “use it or lose it” or slippery slope implications.

I ask of them, like I do of everyone else, is this where you want to plant your flag?

Another facebook friend or two suggested that we all boycott Kroger. I’m all for voting with my feet, but feel that this is an unsustainable strategy. Kroger stores are ubiquitous in these parts. They offer a wide selection at affordable prices. Marginalizing people who don’t have the time or the money to drive all over town in pursuit of a gallon of milk is not a winning strategy. A little too heavy on elitism and shame for my tastes.

This is the crux, of course.

The tail is wagging the dog here. No one is willing to concede even the tiniest of rational inches.

So everyone. Yes, everyone. Let’s stop letting the ridiculous extremes speak for us.

Let’s start behaving, as I often heard growing up, as if we have an ounce of good sense.