Several years back, I took our oldest son – then around eleven years old – with me to a pro-rights rally near our state capital. Firstborn was quite excited about coming with me to the rally. Together, we made him a little sign that said, “The governor’s kids are protected by men with guns. My mom’s gun protects me!”
My own sign said, “Don’t tell me how I can’t protect my children.”
When we got to the event, Firstborn and I met up with friends and studied the lay of the land. As expected, there was a small clump of anti-rights people in one area, and a much larger gathering of pro-rights people a short distance from them. Although we had very different perspectives on the proposed law, there really wasn’t a lot of tension in the air. My son and I had a really good conversation with one woman, who seemed genuinely puzzled that I would even let my son know we had guns in the house – let alone invite him to come with me to a political event supporting gun ownership. After some discussion, in which Firstborn showed himself very informed about gun safety, she graciously conceded that it might be all right “for you and your family,” but that other people’s families needed to be protected from themselves. We shook hands before she walked away.
A few minutes later, I noticed another woman behaving oddly on the fringes of the crowd. She had a camera. I kept spotting her out of the corner of my eye, but every time I turned to look, she ducked or turned her back. After watching her awhile, it was obvious that she was trying to get a picture of Firstborn and his sign. When I figured it out, I went over to talk to her. As soon as I approached, she put the camera behind her back and pretended not to see me. “Excuse me,” I said, “were you trying to get a picture of me and my son? We’d be happy to pose for you with our signs, if you’d like.”
She looked shocked. “You would???” she stammered. “You would let me take a picture?” I can’t really put the tone of her voice into words: taken aback, flummoxed, staggered, astonished, doubtful, disbelieving, even accusing. All those. There was something else, too, but I didn’t figure out what it was until later. “But he’s holding a sign about … [dropping to a whisper] … guns!”
I smiled. “Yes, he is. Would you like to come ask him about it?” She was obviously pleased that I’d offered, because she really did want that picture, but she was even more obviously shocked that I didn’t mind.
A few minutes later, she came over with her camera, bringing several of her friends with her for moral support. She was tense, edgy. Her friends asked Firstborn how old he was. “I’m eleven,” he replied. They asked me if he’d been shooting with me. “Of course,” I replied. “He’s a good shot. I’m proud of him.” When I said that, several of them stepped back and stopped talking. We smiled and posed. Soon, several other pro-rights people gathered around with their signs, all smiling and quite willing to talk. The woman with the camera quickly – and with an odd furtiveness – took their pictures too. It was very obvious that she expected us to come to our senses any moment, and stop her or yell at her. When she was done, I asked, “Why did you think we wouldn’t be willing to let you take our pictures?” She didn’t answer, just shook her head and moved off. I chalked it up to just one of those odd things that happens sometimes.
Two days later, I woke up from a sound sleep and it hit me: she was trying to sneak a picture because she thought we would be ashamed to be seen at a pro-rights rally! She and her friends were trying to shame us, and we were too cluelessly self-confident to realize it. Poor woman. No wonder she sounded so shocked when I invited her to come over and openly take our pictures.