Thursday, February 2, 2012

Putting on Kevlar Undies

My publisher, Potomac Books in Dulles, Virginia came up with the PR tag line: "Liberal in the NRA" to beat the drum for American Shooter. They believe it is a provocative oxymoron that will engage the curiosity of readers and cause money to magically fly from wallets and purses into the booksellers' cash registers. While I hope this is true, the term makes me feel like Buster Keaton in that Civil War movie where he crosses between the two battle lines wearing half of a Union Army uniform and half of a Confederate Army uniform carring a flag similarly divided. All fighting stops -- until the wind changes direction reversing the flag --  and everyone starts shooting at him.

This clever label suggests I stand between the political PAC that uses patriotic arm twisting to achieve its self-serving agenda cloaked in the guise of defending the Second Amendment and a collection of over-educated rabble who tilt at windmills with loopy statistics in an attempt to rid the world of firearms. Not a great place to be standing without a full set of Kevlar undies.

When I set out to write American Shooter, I approached the subject from two directions. As a historian with 50-odd books from mainstream publishers on bookseller shelves in the U.S., the history of America's gun culture is a rich subject filled with irony, excitement, humor, tradgedy and sharply drawn opinions. The other approach was as a marksman from age 12 when I earned my Boy Scout merit badge. That achievement, for a kid with low self-esteem, mediocre sports skills, average student abilities and few prospects for a life of blazing success, punched my ticket, gave me a hand up. At that time, I became a Junior National Rifle Association member and have remained a member ever since. This bipolar organization is still the effective steward of our sport.

A "Liberal in the NRA" does not stand for a political position as much as it does for seeking ground between the polarizing extremes of patriotic bullies and sweaty-palmed, Chautauqua tent drum beaters of the stripe that gave us the 18th Amendment back in 1920. To me, a liberal is the opposite of a lock-step ideologue. I'm supporting a solution that everyone can live with as long as those who push hate and division as their chief debating points can shut up, sit down and enjoy a nice cold beer while the adults in the room explore a couple of positive win-win ideas.