I live with my family in a rural part of Appalachia. I have two small girls, one in second grade and one who’ll start school this fall. Their dad is a Marine, a combat vet. I was raised on firearms. I’m from the country; I couldn’t tell you when I shot my first round. I just know that I’m most comfortable with the Ruger P89 because I get a solid double tap every time on that one, though I’ll tell you I struggle with a Desert Eagle. It would be, we’ll say, unwise to approach my house, generally speaking.
If we lived in a reasonable world, I wouldn’t have to make that clear. But I don’t live in a reasonable world. I live in the dystopia that you fight to preserve, one in which a single crazed person can buy a military-grade weapon and come visit my house anytime he thinks I have spoken too loudly. You and I both know that happens every day in this nation. Still, somehow, you sleep enough at night that you look rested on air, assuming that’s not just a genius makeup person and a lot of concealer.
Maybe y’all just have a different idea of personal worth in Missouri; I was raised in Utah. Women where I come from value honesty and truth. We honor benevolence and strength. We do not set rabid mobs on each other’s children for any reason, least of all one so tawdry as a paycheck. Still, when I ponder what created you I can’t help but remember all the women I’ve met in Missouri. They are for the most part inspirational. I would hate to hold a whole state responsible for how you turned out. And hey, my hometown has produced a few bitter apples; I won’t hold you against the people you grew up with either.
Before we get into the meat of it, I should tell you that you need to get your arm tattoo covered. Despite all the warnings in the Bible about how man can twist Scripture to his own use, you dared to ink a reference to the words of Paul on yourself. To be clear, I am heavily tattooed myself. It’s not the ink I’m judging here, it’s the blasphemy. I fundamentally can’t believe that you look yourself in the mirror every day and tell yourself that the breastplate of righteousness and the sword of the Word were meant literally.
You might have tried Ephesians 4:32, which is a verse I assume you’re not familiar with but you should maybe look up. It’s just a couple pages ahead of that passage that you’re using to justify your personal profit. Or I suppose you could look to the example of Christ in the Garden when he told Peter to lay down his sword, but then that would assume that you actually pay attention to the words of Christ, which you and I both know you skim over. If you took them to heart you couldn’t do what you do for a living.
You’ve spent some years now trying desperately to become famous, and on that count I must congratulate you; you’re a household name now. It is a certain kind of person who can find glory in infamy, but here you are thinking you’re riding high. I suppose it must take a kind of talent, really, to think that tying yourself to bloody mayhem is a “legacy.” I have never been capable of that kind of self-deception; I envy you a little for that. Life must be a lot easier if you feel no sense of responsibility to the society you live in.
But let me answer your most recent “ad” quite directly: Come for me. No, really. Are you not just a shill? Do you believe the words you are happy to say, or is it just the paycheck that keeps you on air? You said my time was running out, and as far as science is concerned your hourglass is finite. I’m waiting for you, since you issued your vague challenge. Maybe that’s another difference between where we come from; in my mountains we don’t issue ultimatums we don’t mean to follow up on. It would be a sign of weakness to issue an empty threat.
But then, weakness is your wheelhouse; you pose with rifles for your book covers but you hide from unarmed schoolchildren who say mean things on the internet. You blatantly lie about how hard-pressed you are; we all saw that video of you leaving that town hall while people chanted “shame” at you, and it’s real cute that you want to cast that as people threatening you. But—real talk between women from the heartland? You ain’t fooling nobody.
You’re not that good an actress. Which is, I imagine, why you gave up your Hollywood dreams. You never did have the chops, which at least explains your wooden stand-ups and also why when you tried to shop a show, the few contacts you had turned you down. It’s a small town, you know, and when you became a laughingstock (the most recent time) after the teenagers owned you on national TV, everyone started talking about that time you tried to break in again. I suppose that’s part of why you hate Hollywood so much. It must be horribly embarrassing to have so publicly wanted to be included in a circle that wouldn’t give you the time of day.
But that’s another difference between us, I suppose; I never wanted to be famous and I don’t give a shit what people think of me. Maybe that’s why I made friends in the circles you never could break into, because I’m not trying for that shot at fame. You, on the other hand, are so desperate that you actually officially brand yourself as punk rock. I and my yellow laces think that’s real cute.
Speaking of laces, though, we should mention race. Specifically, your incredibly open racism. Like the time you said that police were justified in killing Philando Castile because you had heard that the car he was a passenger in smelled like marijuana. Or the time 12-year-old Tamir Rice got killed for holding a toy gun and you said that his death was at least partially his own fault. The world has noticed your bigotry, Dana, and it’s one of the things that makes you so utterly contemptible.
The point of all of this is that you don’t scare me, and nor do your crazed fans. You’re real used to being the armed one in a conversation, and that’s a reasonable assumption. Most journalists who call out your bullshit aren’t gun owners. Nor are they from an NRA family. Most journalists don’t live near the holler. Most of us didn’t come from the bottom. But I am, and I do, and I did. I’m not afraid of you, or your single percent of the population, or the money of the people who pay you, or your clenched fists.
You have a couple of options here. You can pretend you didn’t see this. Or you can come for me, like you promised to. I am not Joy or Joe or Mika, but I am a journalist. The invitation to back up all your posturing and empty rhetoric does not get clearer than this. (Because I live in this world you have helped to create, I should be very clear here that I make no threat. I just don’t think you have the guts to follow through on yours, even should you search the darkest corners of your stunted mind and shriveled soul and find a shred of intellectual consistency.)
The irony, of course, is that you would not dare face me; you can’t even bring yourself to face schoolchildren without feeling like you have to insult them (which, by the way, is another sign of weakness. Most adults don’t have to drag traumatized kids to keep the upper hand.) You pose and posture and parrot, but you lack the courage of your convictions; you would never risk yourself. You will keep talking about how 5 million people stand behind you, and you will never mention that your millions are a vanishingly small part of the population.
You will pointedly ignore the fact that most gun owners actually don’t like kids being massacred, that most of us think you’re a ghoul, and you will continue to babble about the rights you claim to assert on our behalf no matter how clearly we tell you to stop. You will carry on blithely, happy with your tenuous position because some fractional percentage of humanity watches you preen on camera, and you will count that as success while you ignore the body count that you directly contribute to.
When you are old, you will consider your life and find it ash in your mouth while you watch today’s children systematically undoing your life’s work. They don’t fear you any more than I do, and they will win.
And someday, in this life or the next one, because you are cowering and pampered and you will never have to face a spiritual mirror in this world, you will face a person who will simply quote you Matthew 7:23.
I am a gun owner, and you don’t represent me. You could not possibly, you see, because I have both a soul and a conscience, and you cannot represent that which you do not understand.