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COMMENTARY: It’s not about the guns

Is it really about the guns? Are people really pissed about the possibility of new gun laws in our country – or are they pissed that it’s a black man standing up and saying we need to get real about gun laws and regulations, and background checks.

I only ask this question because of what I witnessed on Friday while shopping for a few groceries. I grocery shop at our local Marine Base Commissary, so all of the patrons are active duty, retired or National Guard service members.

One must always go to the Commissary with patience and know that it will most likely be crowded and the line at the Deli will be long, and the line to check out will most certainly be even longer. I’ve learned in my 30 years of dealing with the military a few little tricks, and I’ve also learned patience. I’m grateful for the lower prices, and I’m proud of the fact that I have a military sticker on my car and a military ID in my wallet! Yes, even this liberal lesbian is a patriot. But, I digress …

I don’t know about any of you – but when I’m stuck in a line I play the game in my head about whom the people are who are around me. Like the woman two carts back with three little children who seemed overwhelmed by life – I placed her as a wife of a Marine who was deployed and she was just coping from moment to moment trying to keep her life, and the life of her children, in place until her husband came home – praying every moment of every day that he did come home.

The man directly behind me appeared to be a Vietnam War vet and he was still pissed at the world and even more pissed that he had to wait in another line for anything.

The man in front of me – well – he turned out to be a world all his own. His cart was filled to the brim with unopened, sealed cartons of something. I’m not talking one or two – I’m talking filled top to bottom and in the space underneath the cart. His cap said Marines,, he wore his camouflaged pants, and he just carried himself like a man on a mission.

I had no desire to engage this man in any sort of conversation, but the angry vet behind me needed to know what was in the cart. “Hey, buddy, what the hell do you have in your cart?”

Lord help me – I was between the devil and the deep blue sea. In a voice that needed no megaphone – we were all informed that the “Socialist, Communist nig*er leading the forces of evil against us” was making him prepare for life as a Patriot.

He had more than $800 worth of MRE’s (Military Ready to Eat Meals) in his cart. He informed us that we should all be preparing, we should all be scared, and we should all be cleaning our guns and stashing our ammo, “before the nig*er takes it away from you.”

“The revolution is coming; are you prepared” he asked the vet who dared to ask him what was in his cart? “Hell no,” the guy said, “I just came for stuff for the football games this weekend!”

What struck me was this. Here was this man trashing his government, but here he was using his government ID to shop. He was shopping on government property, at a government installation where he didn’t have to pay any tax, probably using money from a government pension. I wondered: Was it really his government he was hating or was it simply his hatred of President Barack Obama? Immediately I was picturing him in a white-pointed hat with just his eyes showing, and a pretty white nightshirt.

Meanwhile, the checker who was ringing up all of his MRI’s was this adorable African-American girl, who had heard and witnessed every word that had been said. She never said a word to him; she did her job with honor and dignity, and sent him on his way. When I got my groceries on the belt on the way to the scanner, I went to show her my ID, I took her hand in both of mine – I looked her right in the eye, and I said: “I’m so, so sorry.”

What I saw in her eyes was such a mixture of emotions. The fact that she wouldn’t let go of my hands told me volumes about what she was really feeling. She was feeling the burden of generations of African-Americans who were and are still treated as slaves to be bought and sold with no concern of family or feelings or heritage. It made me sad, and angry, and more determined than ever to fight for what is right and just for every American.

It’s not about the guns – at least it’s not for that old Marine I saw on Friday.

Barb Hamp Weicksel was born in 1952 in Pennsylvania and moved to California in the early 1980s, where she met her partner Susan. They've been together some 30 years and share the love of Susan's four children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Her blog, Barb's Gift of Gab, can be found HERE.