Monday, 20 September 2010

The Divide

I know it's been a while since I posted, and I'd love to catch you up, for now now here's something that's on my mind today.

Parliament is back this week, and the long gun registry is one of the top issues. Before this year, the registry was not something I thought about very much. And until yesterday, I'd never encountered a rifle at work, killing anything.

As a middle-class, white girl living in an urban centre, all I knew was guns are scary, and they're for bad guys. In my young, Bambi-loving heart, hunters all counted as bad guys. Because Bambi is CUTE. Over the years, I learned a little more about guns. I shot a BB gun while visiting my godfather in Massachusetts one summer, and thought it was kind of fun, although that probably had more to do with the fact that I hit the target than the act of shooting. I watched a lot of cop shows, which didn't really teach me much of anything real. I met friends, Americans, whose families hunted deer for fun and meat. I decided hunters weren't all evil (but maybe a little backwards).

What changed this year was my introduction to a world I'd never really entered before: rural life. My boyfriend's family has lived on the same piece of land for 120 years or so, and they were mostly farmers. They've let the farm lapse now, but not the way of life; they grow most of their own vegetables, make maple syrup in the spring. They chop and split the firewood to heat the house all winter, and it comes from the woods behind their house. The traditions are carried from one generation to the next, traditions that include hunting.

For the length of our relationship I've known that his family had guns. I wasn't surprised by it, except maybe a little when I first heard, but then I heard the stories from hunting season. Phil's dad is a good shot, and bags a deer most every year which they then butcher and put in the freezer to eat, beside last summer's chickens. I even ate some at dinner and earned some respect, I hope, when I declared venison to be delicious, which it was. At least I was eating as "free-range" meat as you could get. This deer had a long, happy life munching grass and running around before it made it to my dinner plate. And this hunter's care was obvious: he's a good shot, not to brag, but to limit the suffering of the animal.

Guns, and the registry seem to come up a lot when I meet Phil's family members. There's the city-living uncle whose brother was killed senselessly by an angry farmer with a shotgun. There are the farmers who have grandpa's gun sitting in the attic, and use them regularly. No matter who I'm talking to, they all oppose the registry. "It's too expensive" some say. Others point out that while it's only registration now, later it could be regulation, limits on guns, and while they are dangerous objects, they're also heirlooms and part of their livelihood. Once they're registered, they lose sole ownership over that part of their family's history.

I always assumed that registration made perfect sense. At least the authorities know who has a gun when they show up, right? Well, to a certain extent. There are all of those illegal firearms in our country, killing people in urban areas. Besides, the police favour it, and the police know more about guns than I do. But I do see that slippery slope feared by gun-owners:

First comes registration then comes... regulation? Limits? Outlawing guns altogether?

I don't favour those final steps. Registration, yes, imposing some limits, perhaps. But taking away these pieces of history? Not really.

It's all fine for me to say these things, but until yesterday, I was far removed from it. I'd never seen a gun used to kill anything. I'd seen them fired in parades, or in the movies, but not in real life. I'm not going to go into much detail on this one, because I'm still working it over in my head, and this post is long enough already. I'll keep it short. Coyotes showed up on the hillside, and a young one was on the hill beside the house frolicking. There is no other way to describe it, and in fact, it was pretty adorable. But we soon realized it was a coyote, and when they grow up, they are not so cute (they killed that songwriter in Cape Breton last year!). As I mentioned, this hunter is a good shot, and the animal was dead in seconds, shot right in the heart. When we looked at the body, it was still warm.

We left it for the birds to eat, and packed up back to the city. Phil asked me if I was traumatized by the event, which I don't really think I was. In fact, the most traumatizing part for me was that I was so untraumatized. Me, the Bambi-loving city girl who was afraid of guns saw the logic and necessity of what had just occurred. And I've gained respect his father, not lost it.

I guess I mean to come to a kind of conclusion here, but I don't think it will be very neat. I think this debate is divided along city-rural lines, and I think as Canadians, we forget about the other half (must less balanced than half, actually) much of the time. We dial out and don't listen to the side the other presents, or if we do, we dismiss it with our handy stereotypes and the grumblings of disillusioned farmers who need to get with the times, or the condescending speechifying of men in suits who've lost touch with the land they exploit. This divide must be examined, must be bridged, if we are going to find unity on this issue. And that is much further away than this week's vote.


許瑋菁 said...
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Mud Mama said...

Oh boy do I understand!

Not only am I a rural Ontario girl moved to big city (Ottawa), had a vegan period, food issue junkie, return to rural life (Nova Scotia), growing and slaughtering own food and thinking hunting and fishing is the most responsible meat eating there ex husband is employed by the gun registry and I rely on that child support!

* we must have tea if you ever visit Wolfville okay? I have a 17 yr old living here who is applying to Kings for journalism.

EK said...

Applying to King's! SO EXCITING! WIll you be attending an open house? Coming on a tour? Does your 17 yr old have any questions? (I used to give all the tours here...). This is exciting. You should email me at inajarblog at gmail if you have any questions. Or for tea planning.