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Stars, bars, and open arms

Flags + Guns Dept.
By RICK WORMWOOD  |  April 28, 2010

TJI043010_gun_main 

The first thing I noticed when pulling into the Preble Street parking lot on Back Cove for last Sunday’s open-carry firearm event, which had been organized to encourage Mainers to legally wear their guns in public, was the Confederate flag. Until that moment, as a Second Amendment supporter, I had wanted to wear a handgun that day. But when I saw the banner of Dixie, I was glad I hadn’t. I don’t associate with any group employing that flag, unless I’m having my picture taken with the General Lee, from The Dukes of Hazzard, at the Bonny Eagle car show. It was just one part of the scene, but on Sunday, the rebel flag was flying behind the cab of a big pick-up truck that was impossible to miss, conspicuously parked near the protest zone; fluttering beside it in the Back Bay breeze was the US Marine Corps standard. Both banners were positioned above two US flags. The truck was a piece of automotive agitprop protest art, and not just because of the flags and 12 right-wing bumper stickers. The truck bed had also been removed, and a huge white sign sat behind the cab said, in big letters:

OBAMA’S CHANGE EQUALS

MORE MORE MORE

LOST JOBS TAXES DEBT

GOVERNMENT DECEIT LIES

SOCIALISM COMMUNISM

WASTEFUL SPENDING

LOST REFORM WELFARE CORRUPTION REGULATION

LIVE FREE OR DIE FIGHT FOR FREEDOM

FIRE PELOSI! IMPEACH OBAMA!

Not everyone agreed. Richard Gelwick, who lives in Harpswell and teaches at the Bangor Theological Seminary branch here in Portland, thought it was important to oppose the open-carry demonstration. “I believe very much in civil relationships towards people, and to encourage other people to carry openly all the time seems to me to encourage the liability of someone not being cool, not thinking rationally, leading to the accidents that can happen. That’s fairly simple,” Gelwick said. “I hope that we have not come to the point in our society where we cannot trust anyone around us, and we feel like we have to carry a gun anyplace we go.”

Even then, before the event started, it was obvious that the armed would vastly outnumber those protesting their presence. White men, white bikers wearing guns, and other armed white people walking their dogs kept streaming in, but counter-protesters were harder to spot. Gelwick, preferring a hopeful spin on the turnout factor, said “That may mean that (those opposing open-carry) have confidence that this demonstration won’t go very far, or don’t think it will have much influence; it will just be an expression of people who have the point of view that they think everyone should be carrying arms.”

Only a few yards away, an armed man who would only identify himself as Richard from Standish, a heavyset veteran with a scraggly beard and a nine-millimeter on his hip, explained how the purpose of Sunday’s event was exercising rights and self-defense. He said, “It’s important for people to defend themselves when there are so many people out there willing to take away your freedom and make you a victim. And this is a deterrent. I believe in peace and superior firepower, a principle I learned in Vietnam.” He then discoursed on how liberals had agitated for gun control ever since JFK was assassinated, but the controls that liberals are willing to give the government are, to Richard, a callous and unacceptable forfeiture of the freedoms that he deems precious. He considered liberals “handwringers, and they’re worrying about this and worried about that, and you know, you’re giving away (freedom). You’re making yourself victims. You’re allowing yourself to become a victim. But they don’t see it that way. They think it’s going to be the old Wild West. But I don’t see anyone here drawing on each other.”

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  Topics: Live Reviews , Barack Obama, Politics, The Dukes of Hazzard,  More more >
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