I wrote this back in the 1990s, after a friend invited me to go along with him to a gun show. Little has changed in the gun shows I have attended since then, except for the increased paranoia, and offensiveness of some of the material.
Poetry lovers may appreciate the efforts of the Militia of Washington County, a couple of lines of which I have reproduced here. This is included in my book, Ozark Mosaic.
The Guns of Heaven
Recently it was my pleasure to attend a gun show at the Washington County Fairgrounds. Though I have not had a gun in my home since the early l980s, when I almost shot a man, I still enjoy target shooting, and appreciate well-crafted weapons. This was the first time in my life l had attended such an exhibition, however, and it was somewhat on the surrealistic side.
As a society, we have differing views of gun owners, and most of them are based in reality. There is, for example, the average owner, concerned about the rising crime rate, and the dangers becoming more apparent in daily life, who owns a gun for protection. The majority of these men and women are responsible individuals, and so are not the ones we read about in the newspapers.
Then there are the serious collectors, those for whom gun owning is a rather expensive hobby. l have seen some of these collections, and they can be impressive, though sometimes disquieting. And then, of course, there are those who are actively preparing for the breakdown of society, and the coming of a "dog eat dog" world.
At the gun show, I saw all three types represented. Most seemed to be like myself and the friend who accompanied me, merely curious. As a culture, of course, we have a fascination with weapons of all kinds, and our popular culture depicts wild-eyed, sweat drenched men and women, designer clothes askew, clutching those hot, hard, metal rods, seeking the next recipient of their molten load.
But some obviously lived on the fringes of rationality, only visiting civilization for victuals and ammunition. As one dealer admitted to me, he was "making money off people's paranoia." And paranoia seemed to be the order of the day, as booth after booth offered handguns with laser sights, swords, bayonets, and your basic back yard army set.
Books and pamphlets warned of the encroaching "New World Order,” a scheme cooked up by Satan, the United Nations, and those gremlins from the Kremlin. And, of course, the ever growing power of the federal government in people's lives. (It may be interesting to remember that, prior to Bill Clinton's presidency, most liberals encouraged people not to trust the government. Since then, of course, they can't seem to understand why people would entertain such thoughts.)
Want to know how to make a bomb? Check out the next gun show coming to your town. Want a recipe book, so that your meals don't get boring out there in the hills while you're making those raids on United Nations troops holding American cities hostage? Want to buy tapes from Mark Koernke, mad guru of the short-waves, warning of the infamous New World Order?
Have we got a show for you!
An interesting pamphlet called "The American Christian" reveals to us that the "true Christian image" is not the traditional angel, wearing a peace symbol (?) and surrounded by goofy word balloons uttering that dangerous phrase, "love," but rather a stalwart fellow pushing a plow with one hand and clutching a flintlock rifle with the other. lt also features the "Anti-Thought-Control Dictionary," which tells us that the word love has been corrupted to mean, "Sexual attraction toward (and/or sexual engagement with) another person, regardless of sex, race or age."
This issue of race was of serious concern to some of those who had tables in the hall. I was able to buy a bumper sticker that proclaimed, "Work - it's the white thing to do." Hey, goes without saying. Further down the aisle, I saw a plump fellow with a scraggly beard, wearing a t-shirt announcing, "Property of KKK athletic department." If they were all built like him, the only Olympic event they'd qualify for would be the 50 yard buffet dash.
I saw a young black man ushering two small children before him down an aisle, and I felt ashamed.
The high point of the day (after handling a handgun affixed with a laser sight - that infamous red dot you see in the movies doesn’t always appear, by the way) was my encounter with the gentlemen from the Militia of Washington County, who were represented by men who seemed very nice. For the princely sum of three dollars, I bought their handbook, which details their aims and motives.
The militia claims the duty to "restore" the Constitution, which has been stolen by socialist enemies within the government who threaten the churches with unjust laws (a reference to the Reverend Jay Cole's troubles some years ago?), unlawfully aborted children, and legalized perversion of all sorts. Environmental protection is also one of the evils the government has put upon us.
The militia tells us that it will not be disarmed under any circumstances, and that any "conspiracy" will be met by force. In bold print is the following:
10. The Militia shall consider any attempt by members of City, State, or federal government to disarm the people to be a Provocation, an act of Rebellion, Insurrection, Treason and War against the Free People of the United States of America . . .
Three to five thousand rounds of ammunition should be considered minimum for any .household concerned with civil unrest or the possibility of a foreign government taking over our shores. A letter from the Militia to law enforcement officers of Washington County proclaims that the "patriots" in the militia will begin reclaiming and enforcing Constitutional rights by “Armed Force of the Militia" if necessary. Like many throughout history, the Militia seems intent on obeying (and enforcing) only those laws that they approve of, and to hell with the rest.
Not to be confused with those brutish thugs who would inflict their own brand of law upon their fellow Americans, those in the Militia also have a soft, sensitive side. Wayne Fincher, author of this weighty tome, also writes poetry, though not about anything as unmanly as loving your neighbor, or trees, or those confusing forks in the road. No, the Walt Whitman of the Militia of Washington County, in his poem entitled "Tyrants Beware" (and literary critics too, I suspect) wrote the following verse:
And from our schools, all knowledge of our God and Savior must go,
replaced by a socialist, New World Order, ruled by the thugs of NATO.
Referring to those damned English, no doubt.
Of course, it is always possible that these men and women, intent as they are on exposing the gay socialist environmentalists who have taken over our country, are simply a couple cans short of a six-pack.
Not quite in the militia category are those one issue voters who are also concerned about gun laws. Though law-abiding, many seem consumed by their passion, and totally uninformed about anything else. These are the people who really think that the wealthy republicans elected to office last November are somehow part of a populist reformation.
Leaving the exhibit hail, I passed a table where a man was selling swords. Most were copies of swords that had helped make history. One in particular caught my eye, and as I hefted it, I asked what it was modeled on.
“It’s a Klingon sword from Star Trek III,” the dealer told me proudly. I began looking around for the much vaunted Klingon Bible, but it was not to be seen.
It kind of makes you long for the day when Fayetteville has its own exhibition hall, doesn't it? We can have militia members and KKK athletes roaming our streets in broad daylight, hawking their enlightened ideas and making a buck in the process.
Ozark Gazette - June 26, 1995