They’re sitting at a bench in a park. Pete and Joe, old friends who hadn’t seen each other in a while and met up at a nearby store.
Pete – I don’t get it.
Joe – What’s that?
Pete – You are a staunch supporter of the right to bear arms, to be able to carry without a permit.
Joe – Got that right. Mark of my freedom. There isn’t a dark alley I can’t go into. There’s no man stronger than me. No man taller than me. No man meaner than me. So long as I have my gun at my side.
Pete – The equalizer?
Joe – That’s it.
Pete – Of course, I know you, Joe, and you wouldn’t hurt a fly.
Joe – Unless it decided to mess with me.
Pete – Right.
Joe – Freedom, Pete, that’s what it’s all about.
Pete – But Joe, I feel free and yet, I don’t feel the need to have a gun with me at all times. I mean, I keep one at home, just in case some nut wants to break in for whatever reason.
Joe – You ever fired it?
Pete – I haven’t.
Joe – You’d better practice or you’re liable to hurt yourself instead when the time comes to use it.
Pete – You’re right. I keep putting it off. But back to the main question. I don’t feel the need to have a gun when I’m out and about… not like you do.
Joe – Well, you and me are different. I like to cover every possibility.
Pete – Aren’t you being paranoid when you insist on always being armed?
Joe – I’ve thought about that. And maybe I am… a little… but stuff happens when you least expect it and that’s no paranoia. It’s the freedom, Pete, that’s what it’s all about. Freedom. Personal boundaries. No one bothers me. You should try it sometime. Clears your mind.
Pete – I’d be worried I’d overreact.
Joe – I don’t overreact. How do I know the other guy is not carrying too?
Pete – You have a lot of control.
Joe – Gun at my side reminds me of it.
Pete – Not carrying a gun reminds me to think of alternatives. Are there men, or women, meaner than me, stronger than me? Yes. And so be it. Every person, man or woman, has their power. I have mine.
Joe – You say it to yourself every day?
Pete – I do. I say it to myself all the time. And it helps me be more tolerant of others. More compassionate. And more careful.
Joe – I can do the exact same thing and still have the gun for insurance. Just in case the mental exercise doesn’t work. You said it before. Guns are the equalizer. I’m the master of my life.
Pete – I know you and I know you as a man of restraint. But not everyone with the right to carry a weapon is.
Joe – That’s true.
Pete – What about those who take advantage of the right to carry a gun and then go on to kill innocent people?
Joe – Messed up. Really messed up. But there are other ways to keep people from doing that.
Pete – There are, but it takes time and effort to spot and work with them and it’s so much easier to buy a gun and shoot away.
Joe – Pete… I understand it’s not fair… all those shootings… in fact it’s pretty messed up… but that’s not enough to justify depriving the rest of us law abiding citizens of the privilege to carry.
Pete – The cost in lives is huge. How many people died in Vegas in 2017?
Joe – Nearly 60 and over 500 injured. It pained me deeply to see that happen.
Pete – Freedom has a price?
Joe – Yes.
Pete – Did you ask yourself where was god in Vegas?
Joe shakes his head slowly as he looks down at the ground.
Joe – It could be… that my children will grow up not to think the same way I do. I mean, they will go to college in other states where the laws are different… but there’ll always be Texas. And if you don’t want to carry you don’t have to, but it’s there if you do. I don’t have the answer. I don’t think we should be selling guns to people we know will be using them to coerce or kill others. It’s messed up. I’m against that. Free enterprise ought to have some limits.
They look at each other.
Pete – You believe in abortion?
Joe – No. It’s not right to take a life God created.
Pete – But it’s not god creating the life, it’s a man and a woman coming together.
Joe – If they came together and she conceived it’s because God wanted it.
Pete – Didn’t you say a little while ago that you were the master of your life, that having a gun gave you that feeling?
Joe – Yes, I did.
Pete – Where does god come into it? Well, it’s the same with a woman. If she has sex with a man of her own free will, then she’s opening up the possibility of creating a life. She is. Not god.
Joe – But once you create it, that’s it. It should stay that way.
Pete – Wait up. When you carry a weapon, you’re giving yourself the right to end a life that threatens yours. You are acting as the master of your life. Why doesn’t that apply to a woman?
Maybe she just changed her mind, or didn’t intend to get pregnant and an accident happened. She has her right over the life creating capacities of her body, just like you have the right to put a stop to anything that threatens your life. No different.
Joe – Hmm.
Pete – You will fight for the right to deter or end the life of anyone threatening yours, but you don’t allow women the same choice.
Joe – How’s pregnancy threatening a woman’s life?
Pete – It’s a life altering condition for a woman. Significantly so. Anything can happen. To their health or the baby can be deformed.
Joe -They can always give the baby away.
Pete – Don’t think that’s easy to do. But we should ask a woman. I find it difficult to comprehend that people can be so insistent on depriving others of the right to their bodies. And that those same people may be ardent believers in the right to bear weapons, which means the right to fire them and to injure or kill others. Those who oppose abortion are saying that women don’t have the right to enjoy the fullest of freedoms, the right to own their bodies, which you so proudly assert when you insist on the right to bear arms.
They are silent for a moment
Joe – Women can bear arms, too…
Pete – Yes… but can’t fire them to stop a law that forbids abortions.
They turn to look at each other.
Joe (cracking a smile) – There’s work to do.
Pete – Now, there are politicians… and other leaders… who will stir up feelings just to get elected… and do the least possible to make us think.
Joe – I can think of a few. I even fell for it, once or twice. Not proud of it, either.
Pete – But you’re willing to reflect, Joe… imagine all those who don’t bother. And if their numbers add up enough, they get to rule us.
Joe – It’s happened.
Joe takes off his hat. Holds it in his hands, looks at it.
Joe – How’s the wife?
Pete – We’re separated right now.
Joe – What?
Pete – Been together 25 years… only man she’s ever known. She’s a good woman. We love each other. But the kids are all grown and on their own… and she said she wanted to try something different.
Joe – I’m sorry, man. But that’s freedom for you.
Pete – Twenty five years is a long time…
Joe – The world is vast… and worth exploring.
Pete – Very true.
Joe – When did this happen?
Pete – 6 months ago.
Joe – You miss her?
Pete – Yes. I figure we get to learn how deep we went into each other.
Joe nods, puts his hat back on as he looks off.
Joe – It can happen to any of us. Hope she finds what she’s looking for. You ever need me, just give a holler.
Pete – Thanks.
Oscar Valdes. Oscarvaldes.net