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Commentary: The army of one: NRA Obama backer?

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: We like to think of ourselves as unique. Every person, the theory goes, has his or her own set of talents and abilities — each with unique contribution to make to the human saga. The notion’s a fundamental of Western thought.

Eastern philosophy tends to stress one’s connectedness to the cosmos. In the West, the accent is on the individual. While that perspective can lead to intellectual conceit by falsely implying that we’re all somehow irreplaceable, there’s actually some empirical evidence to support it.

Everybody, for instance, has distinctive fingerprints. Even identical twins — genetic duplicates in every other aspect — have their own distinguishable prints. If clones are different, it would seem we all are. Ironically, fingerprinting originated in China, meaning that the best physical evidence in support of Western individualism came from the cradle of Eastern thought.

Along with my fingerprints, my personal claim to uniqueness is bolstered by the postal service. Nobody receives the assortment of mail that I do.

From the president

Last Friday, for instance, two letters arrived. The first was from the president of the United States. The envelope it came in featured a question in bold print above my name and address: “Do you still have my back?” The second was from the NRA. Its envelope advised that my new membership sticker was enclosed. Both of these missives were puzzling in their own right, but their juxtaposition seemed downright uncanny.

At first blush, the letter from the president suggested rather alarming implications. I’m supposed to be covering the chief executive’s back? What happened to the Secret Service? This sounded like the sort of task its agents should be handling — unless, of course, they’re otherwise engaged hosting beer blasts with hookers. Had the situation gotten so dire that the Big Guy had to solicit a retired cop in St. Louis for protection?

I opened the correspondence fearing a call to duty but soon learned that the Leader of the Free World had merely written to ask for money. That finding was itself confusing, however, because I don’t send politicians money for the same reason I don’t patronize other panhandlers: These people will never find honest work if we continue to subsidize their indolence.

As I’d never sent Mr. Obama a dime, I was uncertain how I could “still” have his back by contributing now. Unlike a local public servant, at least he wasn’t asking me to send one of his kids through college. He just wanted me to contribute “$35 or more” to the Democratic National Committee so the party could take control of Congress in the next election. In anticipation of my favorable response, he enclosed a handsome bumper sticker announcing my intention to cover his rear.

I get this kind of solicitation occasionally because of a youthful indiscretion. In 1998, outraged by the impeachment of Bill Clinton, I sent the DNC a check for $25. Clinton’s behavior was undeniably tawdry, but I viewed the efforts of congressional hypocrites to remove him from office over it to be treasonous. I thus made an impulsive contribution. In the ensuing 15 years, the DNC has spent maybe 10 times that amount in vain attempts to get me to donate more.

From the NRA

While it’s always disconcerting to be shaken down by the president, it was the NRA letter that really surprised me. It was written by my old pal, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the organization. I’m not sure how Wayne originally got my name. I once bought a holster from an online shooting supply company so he may have heard of that transaction and reasonably inferred that people who buy holsters usually own guns.

At any rate, Wayne has been corresponding with me for some time. His last letter came about a month ago. I’ve since discarded it, but clearly remember it was marked FINAL NOTICE. In it, Wayne expressed his frustration with my chronically apathetic attitude toward my Second Amendment freedoms and plainly indicated this was pretty much my last chance to take advantage of a discounted membership in his group.

Now, he seems to have forgiven my lassitude. His latest letter was written with his usual enthusiastic paranoia, warning that my firearm rights were under attack from “… anti-gun politicians and President Obama’s political appointees, global gun ban diplomats at the U.N., militant anti-hunting extremists, radical billionaires and the freedom-hating Hollywood elite.”

Great. I not only have to watch the president’s back but also guard against frontal assault by the treacherous thugs he’s appointed to office. And while radical billionaires aren’t a big problem in my neighborhood, I noted that Wayne had replaced the “freedom-hating media elite” he used to rail against with similarly disposed Hollywood bigwigs. Maybe somebody at Fox News complained about the earlier media reference.

Whatever the reason for the press’ reprieve, the American film industry is an unlikely substitute villain for the gun lobby. After all, I’ve witnessed far more gunfights from a theater seat than I did in 21 years on the city police force. Take away guns and helicopters and most action movies would be about 10 minutes long…

Although I am not now — nor have I ever been — a member of the NRA, Wayne generously included a decorative sticker for my car that identifies me as one. In poker, that sort of chutzpah is known as “betting on the come.”

I figure the NRA auto badge could cut both ways. On the one hand, fellow motorists may be less likely to flip me off during traffic disputes if they think I’m an unstable gun nut. On the other, car-clouters are more likely to break into parked vehicles they think may contain weapons.

I drive a Ford Escape, which is not a particularly distinctive automobile. But its rear bumper will henceforth identify the owner as a pro-NRA Obama-backer. If that doesn’t make it unique, nothing will because cars don’t have fingerprints.

M.W. Guzy
M.W. (Michael William) Guzy began as a contributor to St. Louis media in 1997 with an article, “Everybody Loves a Dead Cop,” on the Post-Dispatch Commentary page. In addition to the St. Louis Beacon and now St. Louis Public Radio, his work has been featured in the St. Louis Journalism Review, the Arch City Chronicle, In the Line of Duty and on tompaine.com. He has appeared on the Today Show and Hannity & Combs, as well as numerous local radio and television newscasts and discussion programs.