White Guys with Guns

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Happy Fourth of July.

My plan for the day was to get up early and go kayaking with Susan. The kayaks were already on the car. Eli went kayaking yesterday with his friend, Jonah, and we never put them away (the kayaks, not the kids). While it’s not a huge deal to load the kayaks onto the roof rack, I’m always sweating by the time it’s done. It seemed nice to be able to just get up and go.

We didn’t though. I slept later than planned; it was already heating up outside; I felt lazy; Susan wanted to meditate. So we just didn’t go. We still haven’t taken the kayaks off, so  tomorrow morning instead.

This morning we went for a bike ride. As I’ve mentioned on my blog hundreds of times, my yard abuts the Gettysburg National Military Park. As far as national parks go, it’s an odd one. Long one-way roads circle the battlefield. Each state has built a monument (or four) commemorating their troops who fought the battle. People drive around the battlefield and look at monuments. OK, some also listen to a podcast explaining the battle.

People rarely get out of their cars, they just drive from monument to monument and I suppose some of them listen to the story. Sometimes they don’t even stop. Once while running on the battlefield, I saw a family drive past the monuments in their minivan. The sliding side door was open and a kid sat in the open doorway taking a picture of each monument. Honey, remember our trip to Gettysburg?

So while I think the interpretation as a national park is pretty stupid, we have miles of lightly traveled roadways with slow moving traffic. It’s a really nice place to ride bikes. Susan and I headed out around nine. We live on the Confederate side of the battlefield. As we spun out past the monuments erected by southern states, we could see commotion ahead at the Virginia Monument.

Any activity on the battlefield before ten is unusual. Think of tourists lazily getting out of bed, needing to find breakfast somewhere in town. When I’m on vacation, I never get started on my day until almost lunch time. But these folks were out early.

They were guys. White guys. White guys with guns. Maybe fifteen or twenty of them. They weren’t really doing anything. Congregating, talking, taking pictures of each other with their guns. Assault rifles slung over their shoulder, pistols on their hips. Lots of Confederate flags, too. It didn’t seem to be a protest, or a rally. They advertised nothing, except maybe their guns. As we rode by, I considered shouting out “Black Lives Matter” or “Cracker, go back to Alabama.”

Our normal biking route is a ‘lollipop.’ That’s a biking and running term for an out and back route with a big loop in the middle. We would come right past these guys again twenty-five minutes later. I said nothing.

As we rode on, Susan and I discussed whether it was worthwhile to engage these people. She felt that if no one says anything, their assumption would be that everyone agrees with them. We decided we’d shout out Black Lives Matter on the way home.

What a difference twenty-five minutes makes. The crowd had swelled to sixty or more people. Men held their sub-machine guns in a ready position–ready to swing them up and mow down a crowd at any instant. Cops were there, lots of cops. Town police, park police, Homeland Security. White guys with guns everywhere I looked. The cops stopped us from riding through, so we stood in the middle of the gun crowd for five minutes wondering what to do. Eventually, the cops told us to proceed, and we headed down the road passing more Trumpers arriving on motorcycles and in pickup trucks, many flying the Confederate flag and a few Trump flags mixed in as well.

Yesterday, Eli and I talked about hunting down some protesters on the Fourth. Sophie saw some yesterday, and watching a protest seemed like an appropriate activity for Independence Day. When Susan and I got home, we grabbed the kids, jumped in the car and drove back to the Virginia Monument.

Most of the crowd had disbursed. A few clusters of white men with guns remained. As we got out of the car, Susan wondered how people would know we weren’t there to support Trump. “We’ll be the only ones wearing masks.” Plus, I was wearing a Washington, DC bicycling t-shirt. No Trumper would wear a shirt that says Washington, DC, much less ride a bicycle.

For an awesome blog post, this is when something terrible or confrontational or heroic or bold would happen, but it didn’t. We walked around the monument, observed the idiots and headed back to the car. A guy walked toward us, clearly with something on his mind. He walked past Eli and me without saying a word, but he told Sophie and Susan to take off their masks. “C’mon, take off your masks, it’s Independence Day.”

We got heavily stuck in traffic on the way home. We hoped to stop for Middle Eastern food from the food truck that sets up in the town’s center square, but they weren’t there. Eli suggested that was because white guys with guns and Confederate flags.

When we got home, Sophie and Susan were fired up. They wanted to go back to the battlefield and steal Confederate flags from all the monuments (they didn’t). Eli stopped caring and went off to play Grand Theft Auto. I brooded.

The ideological divide has never been so clear to me. Those white guys with guns (they were all guys, of course white) are certain about their beliefs. They believe in guns and white power and the Confederacy. They believe liberals are trying to take away their rights. They believe they are the minority that needs to be protected. They will never be convinced otherwise.

My mood started to spoil my day. But my family came to the rescue. Susan, Sophie and I celebrated America by driving off into a large, remote forest and taking a hike. Eli celebrated by jacking cars on GTA.

How do you celebrate your country today?

36 thoughts on “White Guys with Guns

  1. You scared me for a minute with this sentence: “Yesterday, Eli and I talked about hunting down some protesters on the Fourth.” Almost thought you’d joined the white guys with guns, going hunting 😉 Which points out another odd thing about our culture: how often we use words related to guns and killing in every day phrases.

    While I live in a place (rural Idaho) where some fly Confederate flags on their homes and white guys with guns are everywhere, they must feel secure in their majority here because so far they haven’t held rallies. I fear that will change as the election nears and Trump’s chances for reelection wane even more.

    I would have felt so angry to have my time in the outdoors ruined by such a group of inadequate riffraff. Sorry that happened to you and Susan.

    So, because I hate fireworks because of the stress they cause my dogs and most animals. I’m going to hunker down at home this July 4th (it’s dusk as I write this, so fireworks will start shortly), music up loud, avoiding covidiots. With our democracy under assault from our “commander in chief” there seems little to celebrate today.

    Here’s hoping next year we’ll have lots to celebrate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Covid-19 and armed rednecks. We stayed home and avoided the 7/4 fireworks crowd. You can actually see them fairly well from our street. One of my cats was pretty freaked out, even for a half hour or so afterwards, and we’re a mile away. I can’t imagine what it’s like for the pets that live right below the explosions. The battlefield is a big playground for the sporty types in Gettysburg. I’ve read a few facebook accounts of people blocked from their normal running routes by those idiots. The most distressing was a guy in a BLM t-shirt escorted out of a national cemetery. He was there to place flowers on an ancestor’s grave. The police told him it was for his own safety. Our world is seriously screwed up.

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  2. Fourth of July doesn’t mean anything to me as I’m Australian but the thought of having to ride, walk, run or be anywhere in the vicinity of a bunch of crazy mixed up white guys with guns scares me. I would find it really confronting. We are just not used to anyone wandering around with those sorts of firearms let alone a large group. As for someone walking up to me and telling me what to do (no matter how insignificant) while carrying a gun…it infuriates me. So reading your post gave me a mix of emotions. It must be difficult for you all at the moment.

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    • The gun thing is freaking out of hand. The first time I ever saw someone ‘packing’ was only a couple of years ago. It’s well documented on my blog that I abhor guns. I’m sure it’s a part of me that many people have trouble getting past. These people parading in public are simply being bullies trying to intimidate others with the implied danger. It seems like a sorry way to make a point.

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      • Once people are at the level of using guns to communicate the horse has bolted. I don’t know how law enforcement copes when they can turn up to a scene and be outgunned by civilians. Citizens are already equipped for a civi war – it all seems alien and frightening.

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  3. While I’m in the City of Brotherly Love this weekend, I heard from some dismayed Gettysburg friends about the nonsense back home . How dreadful (and outrageous ) it must have looked to see automatic rifles being carried so openly and casually . While I hold hope for the future and a return to sanity, this makes me feel sad and hopeless .

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    • As you know, I’m great at finding the worst in every situation. Yesterday really hit home how far apart we are as a society. I even know conservative people appalled by the cavalier handling of guns and the insistence that the confederate flag is a symbol of heritage. It all makes me sick.

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  4. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck. I feel fired up and want to go rip down Confederate flags from something now. I would have probably done the same, in general, though. I would want my voice to be heard against theirs, but would not have said much (if anything) and rode fast to get out. I hope they are all gone today and didn’t make their stay a whole weekend. Yuck. The fourth of July is Declan’s second favorite birthday, next to his, of course. So we had a family party to Declan’s standards – streamers, flags, and red, white, and blue cupcakes. Now he is jacked with excitement as his birthday is in a couple of weeks. These are going to be a long couple of weeks, I can tell already.

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    • The weeks leading up to kid birthdays are STRESSFUL. I don’t miss that at all. It’s fun that Declan gets into the ‘birthday’ aspect of the fourth. I don’t think I ever did. It was always just a day at the pool and a crazy evening getting to downtown DC to watch fireworks. I can’t believe my parents did that. I never would.

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      • They went out and did some fireworks here. I watched TV. Fireworks are on that list of “Things I don’t like or care about that everyone else does.” My parents never took me to see them, so I blame them when Bob fireworks shames me.

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      • Susan is relatively anti-firework too. I just get upset at how much money is spent on them. Seems like there are a million other things for social good they could do with all that money. More proof that I’m not patriotic. Just one more

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  5. wow, glad you were eventually able to find a way to brighten your day. The one time we passed through Gettysburg on a July 4th weekend it was scary. Yelling Black Lives Matter is the sort of thing I’d want to yell to this crowd of goons too–though of course that could be real dangerous. Hope the rest of your weekend is better!

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    • Thanks. All is well now. I think town has calmed down today. My daughter just left the house to see what’s going on. Yesterday she got cussed out by a biker for flipping him off. Hope she uses better sense.

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  6. All I can say is “What a messed up society we live in.” I would have been All of the fireworks displays in St. Louis City and County were cancelled due to COVID. Personal fireworks are illegal in these same areas. Two things happened. Either people drove to one of the neighboring counties where fireworks are legal and masks are not required. They had big displays. Or, people stayed home and shot fireworks for hours in the illegal territory. I sat home with my husband and a dog that quivered and refused to go the the bathroom all day because of the noise.(The dog not the husband.) I hope everybody used up all the fireworks.

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    • Based on the crowd at the lake-beach Eli went kayaking at, I’m sure there were no masks or social distance at our fireworks. This is going to go on forever. I’m coaching a mountain bike team and we start Tuesday. We’re going to mask-up for instruction but not riding. Hope I’m not adding to the problem.

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      • My son is a biker. He kept reading mixed things about how many droplets at how many mph a biker dispels – or something. He did not ride for months. He’s very careful to not be part of the problem. He’s riding again. He feels it’s okay after new info he’s read. He misses that MS 150 mile ride and some others he does that are cancelled. There’s careful and there’s living. I haven’t figured out the line yet.

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  7. Saw an article in the Washington Post today that says the bullies you saw July 4th got punked via social media. They thought they were going to protect Gettysburg from a flag-burning gathering by antifa. Similar punking has occurred here on the left coast, but it can have serious unintended consequences, like the guy in a BLM t-shirt just wanting to visit an ancestor’s grave that you mentioned. In WA, a black family from out-of-state innocently vacationing in a motorhome were quickly rumored to be part of an antifa riot happening in a small, small town, that rumor spreading like wildfire on social media. Local idiots out to quell the fake riot felled trees across the family’s campground access road, trapping them, and started shooting guns around them. The couple escaped with the help of teens with chainsaws, but it could have been so much worse.

    I fear this is only a warmup to the election, given the increase in incendiary and divisive rhetoric. I worry. I’ll be watching, because I want to know who in my rural area is dangerous and on the wrong side of history. I will take note, remember, and shun. There is no longer any plausible deniability.

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  8. Further evidence of the shitty beliefs and practices of some forty percent of our country. Jeff, I could feel my anxiety building as I read every word of your post … with a crescendo when one of the white guys with guns wanted Susan and Sophie to take off their masks!! There is so much ignorance in our country. I’m glad you and your family weren’t harmed in any way. The best tonic is to vote for Joe in November,

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  9. November can’t come soon enough. Glad nothing bad happened to u all. I would have wanted to shout BLM too! Though I could see that turning into a riot. We spent the week in Crested Butte, hiking and mountain biking. It was a good holiday. Glad you got out Into the woods.

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    • The Gettysburg thing turned into some minor national news. The Trumpers took over the National Cemetery (without a permit) and law enforcement didn’t do anything. A guy wearing a BLM t-shirt came to pay respects to a relative buried there and the cops told him he had to leave. Big ass culture war coming (or already here). A bit worried about the next 6 months.

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  10. When I was a kid, Gettysburg was my dad’s favorite place to go on vacation. He was a history buff and would quiz me on the battle: “Which general was in charge of the troops on Seminary Ridge?” Ugh! I don’t know. I just wanted to climb on the rocks at Devil’s Den.

    If we re-elect Trump this year, knowing what he stands for, I honestly have to think about moving out of the country. I don’t want to be a part of a country that promotes such hate and bigotry. Those guys with guns are just sad.

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  11. I don’t envy you, Jeff. I wouldn’t live in a city again even if someone paid me to. I live in a little hick town of 800 people and I hope and pray we don’t get ‘white guys with guns’ stopping in to visit us here. I just wonder if any of them have considered the law of karma: what goes around comes around. I have to believe they’ll get their recompense, somehow, someway.

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  12. Well, I have a few points to make about this story. First if you felt threatened, you should NOT have brought your FAMILY back to that spot or even consider it a third time. Then kept considering it more when you got home..but just to PROVOKE violence on a crowd who did nothing to you or anyone else. Second, you found that you were only teassed about wearing a mask, harmless joking. Third, it proves YOU are the s*#t stirring part of this story….BLM is using more violence to get there point across….that’s not cool. You were SAFER at this gathering even if you were NOT A SUPPORTER….than at a BLM movement. If a famiy of MAGA wearing hats road through BLM people they would be beaten. Who’s the real problem here. Here’s is the difference….if while riding your bike through the area were more focused on them,more than where you were going, and crashed, they would run to your aid. Tides turned with family of MAGA hats, they would destroy your bike and kick you while you were down.
    So my friend, you are NOT BRAVE , you are COWARD.
    Brave, if you wanted to really confront them would be to stay and hang around asking questions and even expressing your concerns politely. Here’s the thing with most, not 100% but 99%,gun people, the guns are only to protect themselves or believe it or not ,YOU if needed. It’s the NON-GUN guys WITH guns that you need to be concerned with…

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    • Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. You and I will never see eye to eye but I guess one could argue that’s one of the things that makes America a great country.

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