A mea culpa…
A couple of months ago I wrote a blog about professionalism-at-arms. I was specifically referring to our responsibility as gun owners and, more importantly, those who carry guns to operate at a higher level of maturity and, frankly, stoicism than others, not simply in the way we present ourselves to those around us, but also how we communicate with those who don’t necessarily hold our same views.
In the blog I referred to a neighborhood party we attended where I was queried by a neighbor on the need for someone to own an AR-15. Rather than be belligerent, combative, or arrogant in my response, I initiated a somewhat academic discussion about firearms, training, the philosophy behind the Second Amendment, and Second Amendment jurisprudence. I wasn’t belittling or didactic. I was, frankly, somewhat dispassionate and empirical. That individual has since become a regular client here at Artemis.
My restraint and composure led to an evolution in thinking on his part, and he became a new member of our community.
Then there was last weekend.
Some backstory is necessary:
At the beginning of the Toilet Paper Wars of 2020, the son of my uncle’s longtime girlfriend was preparing to get married. They chose a venue in Palm Springs for their wedding that ultimately had to be called off due to the pandemic.
They did get married through a justice of the peace, but his now wife still wanted her wedding. There’s nothing wrong with that, to be sure.
A few months back, they announced they were going to redo the wedding at the same venue, and my parents, as well as Sandy and myself, were invited.
I did not want to go.
It was not that I was antagonistic to the idea of the belated wedding; I just don’t know these people all that well. I have seen the groom maybe a dozen times in my life at family get-togethers, and both he and his now wife are a solid generation below me. This was going to be a big “wedding” with over 300 people, and I honestly just did not see the need for Sandy or me to be there.
My mother felt differently.
I was told, with no ambiguity, that our presence was mandatory as far as she was concerned.
So… being a team player (that really means that Sandy told me to suck it up), we went out to Palm Desert for the soirée.
(If you have arrived here from our newsletter, continue reading here…)
Late Sunday afternoon, my folks and Sandy and myself traveled to a resort in Palm Springs to participate in the wedding.
It was a Jewish ceremony and the wedding itself was actually quite nice. Sandy had never been to a Jewish wedding (which surprised me… our wedding in Las Vegas 23 years ago had Jewish “elements” to it, but was not a “Jewish” wedding)… so she was fascinated by the ceremony and the Rabbi was quite good.
(As a complete aside… many of you know that I grew my beard out for “No-Shave November”. Up to that wedding I have been quite proud of it. Sandy and I took a selfie while we were sitting in the chairs waiting for the wedding to start. She looked beautiful in the photo; I looked like a rabbi wearing a yarmulke. Yeah… the beard is coming off on Dec. 1.)
We then went a few hundred yards to the reception area and found our seats at the appointed table for the reception.
This is when the problems began.
The four of us sat at our round table and waited to see who else we were going to be seated next to.
Another family arrived and joined us: a husband, probably in his mid-sixties, his wife, their daughter, her boyfriend and a four-year-old niece who had been “deposited” with them. The niece was the daughter of one of the bridesmaids.
The niece was Beelzebub.
She was seated next to my father, and was completely out of control. I could see my father becoming visibly agitated.
Strike that. I could see a Biblical rage beginning to boil within him. So could my mother.
This is not unprecedented for my father.
Growing up I always resented his displays of annoyance when we were at restaurants and the service was subpar. Perhaps I am still a little sensitive to that.
Regardless, my mother asked my father if he would prefer to change seats with her.
He curtly told her no. He was going to wallow in his annoyance god damnit.
Time for me to intervene.
I got up and walked over to my dad, touched his arm, and asked him to join me.
We walked a few paces from the table and I had the following “directed” conversation with him:
“Dad… are you annoyed?”
“I know… I am too… In fact, I suspect many of us here tonight are. Here is the thing though… At the end of tonight people are going to be driving back home thinking about one of two things. The first possibility is that they are going to be thinking… yeah… nice wedding, not sure why I had to go… but whatever… at least the drinks were free. The second… real possibility… is that they are going to be thinking: Who the hell was that asshole who started screaming at someone else’s kid, made a scene and made everyone uncomfortable. If that happens, Pop, your wife… my wife… and even I will be embarrassed. So… here is what is going to happen: You are going to take my seat, I am going to take yours and sit next to the devil child, and you are going to be happy, pleasant, and sit through this shit until we can get the hell out of here. Comprende?”
My father sheepishly nodded in agreement and we went back to the table where he took my original seat.
My dad then began talking to the father of the other family.
He seemed like an affable enough gent. He owned, or was partners with another in a manufacturing business; his actual position was somewhat unclear. He did state they lived in Santa Monica.
During this conversation the child was actually taken from the table by his mother… so I was able to actually listen now to what was transpiring between these two men.
I leaned in and asked him where in Santa Monica they lived. I told them I had lived in Santa Monica during my first year of law school.
He lit up and asked me what type of law I practiced.
“Firearms law and use-of-force.”
His countenance immediately changed.
Here we go!… Another opportunity is about to present itself! Professionalism-at-Arms, baby! Be ready and prepared to be gracious, dignified, and, perhaps, bring a new member into the community by the end of the evening!
“Oh… I wish there were no guns at all.”
I nodded, listening to him… really showing him that I was interested in what he had to say.
“I hate the NRA.”
I continued to nod.
“Yes, I hear you… Many of us are deeply disappointed in what is going on with the NRA.”
He did not seem to understand what I meant.
“You probably are like the rest of them and think that that Rittenhouse kid should have been acquitted,” he said derisively.
For the next 45 minutes I became a bully. No… more than a bully… I was flat-out “Mussolini on the balcony,” arms waving, chin arrogantly pointed at him.
Each feeble attempt he made to contradict me was deflected and responded to with a barrage of facts, figures, invectives.
I was destroying him.
He was withering under the full weight of my artillery barrage.
I made him feel like an idiot, I am sure… and, worse, I did it in front of his wife, child, and her boyfriend.
I would not let up.
I saw blood and went into a full-on frenzy.
Now, Sandy has a habit of putting her hand on my leg when I am in a conversation with someone when she realizes I am either dominating the conversation or going somewhere I shouldn’t. I completely trust her. When she does this, I immediately stop… even if I am not sure why she is giving me the cue to stand down.
I still have her nail marks on my thigh from that evening.
She placed her right hand on my leg, then she squeezed, then she full-on drew blood.
I didn’t care.
I had gone from advocate to executioner. This guy disagreed with my position and god damnit he was going to pay for his intellectual laziness!
I could see he was trying now to escape, and I wasn’t going to let him go. He made the colossal mistake of daring to spar with me and I was going to leave my mark.
Then the wedding speeches started.
We sat there and listened until it was finally an appropriate time for us to depart.
He was actually quite gracious to all of us as we left. He didn’t need to be, but he was.
I got into the driver’s seat of the car and Sandy sat down next to me as my parents got into the back.
As I turned over the engine, I looked at Sandy.
“Kinda went over the top, huh?” I sheepishly said.
“Yeah… not my finest moment.”
I looked in the rearview mirror and saw my dad absolutely beaming with delight.
“Hey kid, you did fine!” he said with a grin. “And no one is going to be talking about me tonight on their way home!”
(Here is the thing though… and I have to be honest and admit to it: God, it felt good!)