Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I am an anti-gun forager, with sub-clauses

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.

Isn't it?

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.

I digress.

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?


  1. Interesting food for thought this a.m.

    I hate guns, however, I too respect hunting and foraging (though I could never shoot any animal).

    Unfortunately, most angry people will never get to that therapist or seek help. Get off the survival websites for today!

  2. 100% Agree with Marie, hate them with a passion.

    Zimbi Gal living in London now who grew up with guns and thinks the English policy against guns is fantastic, best policy ever ....ever!

  3. I love your post today and I agree with so much of it! I think the gun laws need an update very much - too many nuts in the world.

  4. We know you're a great forager, a superb photographer, an expert chef, a creative bartender. And we also know you're a gifted writer. Today's post demonstrates your skill as a raconteur. Nice one. And, for what it's worth, the sumac is mightier than the sword. In the end, we can hunt each other with whatever weapon is handy, but everything and everybody gotta eat!

  5. I enjoy reading your blog and respect that you have your own opinion in your space. But what your saying is generalist as does not define all gun owners. I am a happy liberal, I garden like you happily, go to the farmers market happily, own pets happily, and work at a normal office job happily, and live with my boyfriend on the West coast happily. I am not an angry gun owner at all. No emotional issues here. Once and a while I go with friends target shooting happily and responsibly. No animals or humans hurt in the process. It is a bit ignorant to assume everyone who owns a gun must be angry or have an emotional "thing". Crazy messed up people will always find a weapon to lash out on other humans beings. If it is not guns it will be knives or bombs or arson or something. And it is our right in this country to own guns and always will be.

  6. Thank you for this. Well said.

  7. Isaiah 2:44 '..beat their swords (guns)into plowshares and their spears (assault rifles) into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword (gun)against nation (or individual), neither will they learn war (or violence) anymore.

  8. Stacey - good advice :-)

    Anonymous #1: The English are wise in this respect. Very civilized.

    Karen - one can hope.

    materfamilas - thank you...

    Janet - thank you! Pity about my copy editing (lack of) skills...

    Brianna - one has to generalize to make a sweeping point. And as noted there are concessions for hunting. So, why do you own a gun, and what kind is it?

    Thank you, Teasel

    Anonymous #2 - admirable ideas, but sadly the bible is of no use in this debate. An eye for an eye?

  9. Marie, thank you so much for this blog post ... we all need to wake up and make changes soon ... I would like to think my grandchildren will live in a better and safer world, but I fear that is not to happen. IMHO guns are never, ever an answer to anything (except for putting food on the table ... and maybe to keep those darn rats out of the bird seend!) Keep talking!

  10. It really all comes down to choice: Do we choose violence? ... everyday we accept it in what we watch on TV, read, and how we behave, words can be violent.

    Same with food; Joel Salatin recently said: If every American decided to not eat at a fast food restaurant tomorrow, the entire system would collapse overnight.

    Won't happen but it's a really nice thought to ponder, isn't it?

  11. "one has to generalize to make a sweeping point" realize your not actually saying anything with that comment. Here is an example of generalizing to make a false "sweeping point" : all Muslims are bad because of 9/11 attacks. That is the equivalent of your generalizing gun owners as having an "emotional thing" to make a false sweeping point. Stick to talking about foraging and gardening and cooking.

  12. It was tongue in cheek, Brianna.

    So why do you own a gun? You didn't say. I'm genuinely curious, it's not an attack.

    And it is "you're", not "your", since you brought up the subject of grammar :-)

    You have to admit, you do sound a little bit angry...

  13. As you know Marie, most South Africans are very pro-guns. Having been hijacked with a gun to my head I am not so fond of them. And yes, my experience too is that most people who have guns are either a) consumed by fear, or b) very angry. And I get both a) and b), and think that often b) is caused by a), but it alas does not solve the problem. Here in SA this is glaringly clear.

  14. My husband was being interviewed for jury duty in Juneau, AK. The court asked, "do you own a gun?". He answered, "no.". Genuine surprise from the court. They had to ask, "why?"

    He became the foreman of the jury.

  15. I was listening to NPR the other night and they pointed out that in the UK with gun control laws, there were 39 gun deaths last year. Here in the US, there were more than 10,000 deaths due to guns (that encompasses murder, suicides, accidents, etc).

    If we had the same laws as the UK and factoring in the US population, we would have had around 140 deaths. Think of it - there would be more than 9,000 people still alive today, enough to populate a small city.

  16. Amen, Sister. Beautifully said. My dad was one of those angry (scared) people and I hated having a hand gun in the house. Nice to be able to make the rules now in my own house!

    Lovely sumac, too. I think that gin sounds good.

  17. I totally agree, Marie. And, I have argued long and fruitlessly with 2nd Amendment folks about just what said Amendment actually means, in an 18th Century context, which is when it was written. And when people tell me "Guns don't kill people, people do," I respond that "Yes, guns don't in and of themselves kill people; people with guns kill people." Hunting rifles are one thing. I've never hunted, but it may become necessary some day to do so. I get that. But as you say, handguns and assault rifles have one purpose only -- to kill. Thank you for posting, Marie.


  18. My nephew in South Africa chairs an organization called Gun Free South Africa. Last year they smelted 80,000 guns in Johannesburg and 17,000 in the Cape! Strange that the homicide rate seems to have dropped this year which could be pure co-incidence! But it is a start - and in South Africa carrying a gun was Not included in the constitution as a right although other important rights were acknowledged!

  19. I agree, the laws must change. It has always seemed to me that the wording of the 2nd amendment refers to national security... which is ironic, since we are less safe when angry people have legal access to guns that are meant for humans.

    By the way - the Bible of no use in this debate? "An eye for an eye" appears as a principle in the Old Testament in three specific contexts: As a penalty for injuring a pregnant woman and causing her to deliver before she was due, as a penalty for willfully injuring or killing another person, or for giving false testimony in court with the intention that the (innocent) defendant be unjustly injured or killed. Nowhere does it appear as a blanket statement. It was to direct authorities to make sure justice was done to violent criminals. That would certainly seem relevant to the discussion.

  20. KB - thank you.

    Anonymous #3 - yes, the larger argument is about violence and its accepted place in our lives.

    Arcadia - ja, poor you :-( Would I, living on an isolated farm and alone in an isolated place in South Africa want to be armed? Maybe. Ek weet nie.

    Amber - GREAT story!

    Karen - thanks, Karen. That is very interesting. Facts are so useful.

    webb - yeah, my one brother, too. The gin is simmering. We'll crack it open soon. So far seems wonderful.

    Ikaika - Yes. Hello, 2012.

    Graeme - he has a squeaky clean halo waiting for him.

    Edith, thank you for educating me. Apologies, in that case, to Anonymous #2.

  21. Came back to read the comments.....very interesting.

    Brianna does sound a bit angry.

    It's your blog; your words; your thoughts; your voice; sort of like using your pen as your sword?


  22. Fire's hot. Keeping Opinionated fuel to myself.
    Guns n roses.

  23. Bahahahaha lol you can't even prove your point so you correct grammer! Not angry your just a silly silly person. Oh well. I tried to show you you are being close minded. Not coming back so save your breath lady.

  24. Thank you for writing this.

  25. She never did answer my question...

  26. I like your post -- a lot. My husband has owned several guns over the years, and I've always hated them. It was a point of pride when he was young for a boy to get a rifle by the time he turned 12. A rite of passage thing, a proof of masculinity. There's an emotional component that seems to hang on and defy logic. Slowly, over the years, he's gotten rid of all but one, securely locked away. Whether he'll ever be able to let it go, I don't know.

  27. Absolutely love your blog and your writing generally, and this post particularly! I'm in utter and complete agreement. Thank you for your wonderful balance of intelligent opinion, dry humor, and openness...just great.

  28. Very well said. Sometimes we like to think (we as in Canadians specifically British Columbians), "oh, those Americans and their guns".
    Comically enough I had to pause and turn my screen towards the rustling bushes to determine if it was a deer, bear or raccoon just beyond the hedge. I think deer. Or large cat. Oh, and just this week a pair of coyotes took a toy poodle from inside it's owners quilting shop, just a few blocks up from me.
    No guns in this house. Once an old man tried to give my fella a Mauser (sp?) he said his father 'recovered' from a German officer back in the day.
    I swear when I looked at that gun I could hear faraway but deeply unpleasant sounds. It never came in the house.
    Thanks again for the post.

  29. Hi Marie,
    I discovered your blog a couple of months ago and have really been enjoying it—the photos, the advice on small space gardening, your perspective and observations. It’s on the top of my “favorites” list and I check it almost every day. Your ideas on balcony/rooftop gardening are inspirational. And I really love your posts on South Africa. I’ve lived in several different countries (including South Africa for a couple of years in the 1990s) and found SA to be one of the most beautiful, special, intriguing and complex places on earth.
    I hardly ever respond to the posts I read, but am moved to after reading your August 16th item on gun culture/owners. It really made me stop and think. My husband owns a gun and yet I find him to be the kindest and most level-headed person that I know. He took up competitive shooting when he was in the Marine Corps and guns have been a constant in his life with his follow-up careers as a police officer and in federal law enforcement. He owns two guns, one for work and one for personal use (which means he takes it out of the lock box twice a year and goes to the shooting range for a few hours of target practice).
    I know we can’t ever really know a person--including our children, parents, and spouses--but my husband doesn’t seem to be consumed by anger or have serious emotional issues. He doesn’t spend his time perusing gun photos or websites or blogs (bikes and photography are his passions, and he thought your husband’s photos were very cool). I know your comment to Brianna about generalization being necessary to make a sweeping point was tongue-in-cheek, but unfortunately generalizations put up a type of wall between people and are often harmful and counterproductive. I see this all of the time with our politicians on all sides of the fence and was sad to get that same feeling from the tone of your August 16th post.
    But, that’s just my two cents. I definitely don’t know the whole story (or even my story for that matter) and I probably never will. All I can do is keep learning, and I’m learning a lot from your blog. So thank you for all of your hard work.
    I’m looking forward to reading your book when it comes out (and by the way, congratulations!).

  30. I believe that if one balks at the thought of killing an animal, one should not eat animals. (Then again, I don't think one should eat them at all.)

    Ducks are indeed more lovely when alive.


  31. Even though Brianna not's coming back and Marie's too nice to say this, I'll say this for her.

    To Brianna - How old are you, 12?

  32. Apology accepted! : ) but not's your blog. Edith's follow up was soooo much better than I ever could have said it, without sounding angry...hehe.

    Ex had guns, lots of them. Claimed they would increase in value. He bought a Colt 45 hand gun in 1980. He wasn't angry or mean....just kind of dumb or hard headed, well just plain irritating.

    One time someone broke in house and, of course, went for guns. We came home and knew someone had entered the home. He wanted to check his inventory. I demanded he take me out of the house before he did. Not happy he took me to my Mom's. When he came back to house he found a rifle on the floor of the 2nd bedroom with leaves on it as if it was outside and person had to flee or get caught. Always wondered if intruder was in the house when I demanded to be removed. I knew people are often killed by their own guns....

  33. This is a wonderful post! Thank you for this! You have fans in Berlin! I'm reading your blog everyday and i love it. When you are in Berlin: go to Prinzessinnengarten! xo

  34. Honestly, as an American, I've had this conversation too many times. I wrote a pretty good paper for sociology class in high school about gun control. The facts are in, in countries with gun control there are much less deaths either accidental or intentional. But this is hardly ever about facts. It's about people, yes mostly men but also plenty of women, with different needs and wants, psychological, emotional, practical and otherwise. In this realm there is little in black and white, except the raging conversation if you can call it that. In the US, guns have as much to do with crime as they do with sport, as much to do with race as to do with self defense (probably more). Then there is the subject of government tyranny. While the world over, gun controlled or not, has had issues with tyranny, the US is unique in its adoption into its formative myth the role of individual armament as a deterrent to tyranny (hardly useful in the revolution and other wars with England by the way).

    I've shot guns, particularly like the 30 odd 6 rifle. The 16 gauge was way better than the 12 gauge double barrel which bruised my shoulder. I had a bb gun as a pubescent boy, and had a real feeling for archery. Guns or any weapons are tools in the right context and anxiety provoking tragedies waiting to happen in the wrong context. No one ever stabbed to death their son because he snuck into the house late. But Murderers were with us long before guns. Unless you sleep with one eye open and a pistol in you're hand, I doubt one can really be ready for a person intent on killing you. There are limited applications for self defense with a gun that are practical in real world situations. I could go on and on in this gray arena. I won't.

  35. dianefaith - thank you. Diane. Your opinion means a lot to me.

    Cindy - thank you, Cindy :-)

    Megan - bear deer, or raccoon? If it were my "h/edge" it would be...the cat, a raccoon or a fireman. Outside the US I hear the same. People are simply incredulous about US gun policies.

    Anonymous #...4? Thank you for your calm disagreement. Well, law enforcement is another matter. Certainly not one I took into account.

    Michael - I am surprised more people did not mention that contradiction...My husband and I often have this conversation.
    Essentially, I agree with you, though, as you know, I eat animals. If I had to slaughter my own pigs and chickens and lambs and cows I am not sure what would happen to my consumption habits. I have often wondered. Certainly I would eat less. For now I eat farm-raised, long-domesticated animals, and choose meat from responsible sources.

    Karen - I did wonder! :-)lol bahahahaha?

    Tori (formerly Anonymous #2?) - thank you for checking in again. Time I read the bible again :-) I hear it's a good book.

    Anonymous #5, aus Berlin - thank you!

    Frank - on the roof, hence closer to god? :-) Heck Frank, I really don't believe in not opening my mouth.

    On Comments:

    I don't usually respond (any more) to all comments as my time is restricted at the moment, but since this is one of Those conversations, I really do appreciate the feedback and differing opinions.

  36. I'm sorry you ever needed to sleep with a knife under your pillow. You are very brave to have left.

    As for guns, I agree with you in full. And I also wish that this society would treat all lives the same, and would focus just as much attention on the murders in the Sikh temple as those in the movie theatre. Anger wields guns and prejudice both.

  37. Well.
    This opened a can of worms, didn't it?
    I agree with you completely, although a part of me is really happy that my parents in South Africa have a gun - it sort of makes me feel a bit safer on their behalf, if that makes any sense.
    But the whole 'Chicks with Guns' or 'Real Men Tote Rifles' escapes me completely.
    I once had a boyfriend (with gun, therefore 'had') who took me with him to a shooting range. I'd never done that before, but managed to hit the target dead-center.
    He sort of looked at me strangely after that, with a kind of 'I'm not messing with you' kind of look.
    Perhaps you should have done that at the start of your relationship with the Angry Ex.
    Now I'm first looking up sumac and what on earth I can do with it!
    Keep writing Marie!

  38. This comment has been removed by the author.

  39. Anonymous #6 ( I think) - yeah, I'm sorry about that, too. But it's long ago, now.

    Yo - funny... As a teenager my one brother invited me to lie on the lawn and shoot with the .22 at daisies he had stuck into the grass some distance away, on tall stems. I shot several of their heads off. He also looked at me funny. You know, I did fire that big black 45 of my ex's, at a shooting range. Then I sat down and cried. It was horrible and visceral. It felt like death.

  40. Quite true.
    If nobody had guns, I'm sure there would be a lot more niceness in the world.
    I don't buy those 'it would have been something else then'-kind of arguments.
    I have knives in my kitchen, but that doesn't make me feel powerful at all. And if we keep scaring each other or being angry with each other, we'll just continue on and on in circles all the time.
    Doesn't solve anything.

  41. just a thought: i guess this Brianna is actually the reason why one should hate guns. She seems to be quite frustrated and actually kind of dangerous to me ... so much anger! scaring ...

  42. As a former Marine and FBI Agent who has used guns, I now have none around me. I concur with our lady that the gun culture in this country is "insane."

    And I no longer want any part of it.

  43. I like this site. But stick with what you know best. It was not pleasant reading about you and your ex-husband.

  44. No, just staying out of trouble on the roof.

  45. Anonymous #? (I've lost track) - Brianna's just excited, and perhaps a little immature; the defensiveness is understandable considering she was expecting nice recipes and flowers and got instead (like Rick's Wife, perhaps?) the stuff for which the recipes and flowers are an antidote, and which touched a personal nerve for her.

    Hi parkfriend :-) - thank you

    Rick's wife? Stick to what I know? I suppose I don't know my own heart. Yep, that's it.

    Clark - that is very good (and interesting) to know. Thanks. And thank you for your service.

    Frank - sorry, our comments crossed in space. I had not seen your long comment yet.

  46. Marie, Totally with you on this one. Before the birth of my son, I could have easily hunted for food with a gun, field-dressed the poor creature, and butchered it. I had the aptitude and know-how. Since, the very thought of my having to do it makes me squeamish. However, I acknowledge hunting for food is honorable.

  47. It's time for everyone to lay off Brianna. The girl was expressing her opinion and if you read the thread of posts I think she got frustrated when Marie corrected her grammar (which, by the way, could also be interpreted as immature). To say she's "kind of dangerous" is ridiculous. Show some compassion and move on, please.

  48. Anonymous #?- I think that's pretty much what I said in my previous comment, yes?

    When someone with poor grammar - I simply hate your for you're - there's a whole verb missing - tells me how bad mine is, well, yes, the 12 year old in me surfaces :-)

    Leave your name, why don't you?

  49. Marie, you need to join the Facebook page "If you can't differentiate between your and you're you deserve to die". A fabulous page.

  50. Sorry, previous comment from Peter. Love from Koringberg!


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