Sunday, March 01, 2009

No New Gun for Me

A security system would cost about $500 more than the $762 Bathsheba Monk spent on her 357 Magnum with ammo, and there’s a monthly fee. A dog, while being an effective burglar deterrent, is a lot of responsibility and also an expense.

Three or four trips to the vet for well care could easily add up to $762. Still if I felt I was afraid of burglars I would choose either alternative rather than buy a gun.

Years ago my husband and I thought about getting a gun. Some of our friends were getting them and would go and practice at a shooting range. It was 1975 and we were living in New Brunswick, NJ. I was just about to drop out of college and was working at the local Gino’s/Kentucky Fried Chicken while finishing the semester. I would walk home at night past a transvestite bar and a housing project thinking it was the safest route. The transvestites were loud, sometimes spilling out of the bar and onto the street, but they were not a threat to me. The project basketball courts were always lit up and adults were out there playing ball with the kids. I had worked in downtown Newark and had taken the bus home from Ohrbach’s at 9:30-10:00 at night and then walked eight or nine blocks from the bus stop under the railroad arch home to Elizabeth NJ with no problems. One night after I passed the projects and was walking past a fenced construction site that was soon to be a gas station, 2 young men came up behind me, grabbed my purse from my shoulder and ran away. At the time, all I could think of was what a hassle it would be to have to get a new college ID and driver’s license. I shouted after them, “There’s no money in there.” (There wasn’t.) They stopped running, turned around and came back. “Do you have any money in your pockets?” one asked. I pulled my hand out of my pocket. “Yeah, a nickel. Do you want that?” “No.” one of them said and they ran away. By the time I crossed the street and got up to my apartment I realized that shouting after them was probably a mistake and imagined what could have happened when they came back and confronted me. That made me a little shaky.

We never got the gun. I thought if we got one, the police could always plant it somewhere and say we committed a crime. In those days there were a lot of stories about political people being set up and sent to jail and we were political people working on celebrating the Bicentennial with the slogan, “We’ve Carried the Rich for 200 years Let’s Get Them Off Our Backs.” When 5000 of us marched in Philadelphia on July 4th 1976 there were a lot of guns, pointed at us from the rooftops along the route of the march.

Since the 1970’s real wages have declined while corporate profits have increased at a record-setting rate. American factory owners exported labor to maximize profits with no thought of the social cost of that decision, Drug use, drug arrests and prison sentences have increased, particularly among minorities. The latest economic crisis is extremely severe. More and more people will be driven to desperate acts. Should we buy guns to protect ourselves from each other? Was Jay Gould right when he said he could hire one half of the working class to kill the other half?

People have the right to food, housing, clothing, education and health care.

They have the right to do meaningful work at a living wage. Those rights were fought for and won by workers who for the most part did not fight with guns but were shot at by the police and the National Guard who acted on the orders of the factory owners. Buying a gun may make a person feel safe for a little while, but it will not protect us from the devastation that an economic system based on exploitation and oppression has created.

An organized conscious working class, a working class that includes anyone who gets or used to get a paycheck, does not need guns. Through a Facebook friend I found out that Acorn is training Home Defender Teams to allow people to stay in their foreclosed homes. Wouldn’t you rather have your neighbor in his or her home than be surrounded by vacant houses? Wouldn’t you rather see people fed, educated and healthy with your help?

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