Rhus typhina - staghorn sumac
"Time to stock up on ammo!" reads a recent headline on a survivalist website.
Sigh. And he had written such a nice post about eating sumac shoots.
The writer was referring to the perceived reaction to the recent, mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado - a crackdown on ammunition sales. In his opinion, his 2nd Amendment rights are about to be violated.
Don't even get into it, Marie. Tears before bed. Walk. Away. My finger hovered over the Submit Comment button.
I hit delete. I left. Now I'm here. Lucky you.
Thing is, a lot of foragers are survivalists. And survivalists have a mission, and that mission often includes guns.
I hate guns.
Or, more precisely, I hate a culture of gun worship, and so many gun owners really do seem to gloat over their weapons. Stroke them, show them off, post pictures of them. My own feeling is that if you live in a suburb or a city or a nice house in a country with a functioning government and like to shoot or collect hand guns or assault rifles then you have a serious emotional thing. The unresolved kind. Anger, defensiveness, inadequacy. Daddy issues. Mommy issues. A gun will not solve these problems. But it sure as hell makes you feel powerful. Which is the whole point.
And it makes you dangerous.
My ex-husband (collective gasp!) owned a hand gun. Big and black and with as much punch as Dirty Harry's. He was an angry, angry man. He said he needed it for self defense. Living in a high end suburb of Washington DC. The night before I left him I slept on the downstairs couch with a kitchen knife under my pillow. Not that that would have helped much. Oh! I know! I needed a gun!
Moving right along...
I grew up in a house with guns. They were kept locked up. Once or twice, when the house sensed an intruder in the garden my father would prowl with a hand gun. I heard a woman scream one night and woke my father, who sat on his bed getting dressed and carefully combing a parting in his hair. It's happening now, I hissed at him, thinking of a possible rape in progress. She had screamed, NO! in the trees across the stream that runs opposite my parents' house. He and the pistol drove off to find the disturbance. I stood on the lawn behind the house in the dark and shouted into the trees that the police were on their way. The shouting woke the neighbours who arrived on our front lawn in dressing gowns. The local security company had found the woman before my dad did. We still think they might have had something to do with it. No way to know. She was upright and walking and saying she was fine. Said she fell in a hole in the dark.
My brothers and father hunted occasionally, using a shotgun and rifles. I fired the .22 the last time I was there. I hit a box of matches dead center, first try, with a telescopic sight. My skin prickled. It felt very satisfying. I didn't like that. So I didn't fire it again. My father uses it for rats, who eat the bird food. He hits the rats dead center. I didn't want to hit a rat.
My one brother turned into a man indifferent to guns, the other collected them. He would be very sympathetic to the 2nd Amendment.
I get hunting. For the pot. I do. Keep guns if you must for licensed hunting.
I don't hunt, and don't suppose I ever will. When my Edible editor asked if she could send me to do a story in Jersey about deer hunting for city tourists I said, Yes, love to, but I will not pull the trigger. Joy Wang wrote that story. She's the producer of WNYC's Last Chance Foods, and we realized this when I went for my interview there earlier in the year.
I didn't mean to write about guns. I was going to write about wonderful, sour sumac.
American gun culture is insane. It is wrong. It is immoral. I cannot think of anything that embodies immorality more than a hand gun or an assault rifle. These weapons were made for one thing, and one thing only:
To kill humans.
It will take (yet another and another) unthinkable catastrophe to make this country change the way it legislates about guns.
Find a therapist. Ditch the gun.
And have a glass of sumacade. It'll put hair on your chest.
Or would a belt of sumac-infused gin better hit the empty, angry spot?