I Choose Words
by Carl Josehart
A few days ago while checking the news online I saw CNN run the headline “Alt-right leader questions if Jews are people.” Later I watched a clip of Richard Spencer shouting, “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” while saluting more than 200 attendees gathered at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., for the annual conference of the National Policy Institute; a group that describes itself as “an independent organization dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States, and around the world.”
As I started to take in what was happening I found myself gripped with nausea while my chest constricted to the point where I felt like I couldn’t breathe. These images touched a dark place deep within me – a place created by growing up hearing the stories of Holocaust survivors, watching movies taken by the Nazis to document with pride what they had done and being taught to, “Never Forget” and to keep my passport close at hand at all times.
Since the election I have found myself often feeling vulnerable and afraid. Every day it seems there are more and more examples of violence and intimidation against Muslims, Jews, lgbtq and people of color being perpetrated in the name of patriotism and national pride. But these recent events brought the anxiety and fear to a new level. It triggered a primal fear so intense that I began considering buying a gun for protection.
Living in Texas having access to a gun purchase would be relatively easy and I have many friends who are responsible gun owners so in my new state of mind it seemed within the realm of possibility. As I started to think about it seriously, I began to think about what type of gun I would want. I soon realized that I didn’t know anything about guns and that I would have to start researching what would be the best type for me. Not knowing how to fire a gun, I realized I would need to take lessons to learn how to safely handle a gun. I would need to invest time in cleaning it and going to the range for practice. Then I started to think about where I would keep it so that it would be near enough to be of use in an emergency but stowed safely away so that no one could be inured accidentally. An internet search for, “safest gun” led to an interesting mix of articles from the NRA about the virtues of owning a gun for personal protection and a series of articles about stun guns and tasers – what the difference was – and the relative values and downsides of each. My internet search continued with inquiries about gun safes for the home and secure compartments for my car.
Then I started to begin to imagine various violent and threatening scenarios I could find myself in and how I would react – would I fire my gun, would I shoot to kill and how would cope with the emotional aftermath. Under what circumstances would I consider shooing in self-defense to be a reasonable and ethical choice?
From there I started to think about how much time and energy this potential purchase was beginning to take up in my life and realized that the thoughts of owning this powerful weapon weren’t making me feel safer – in fact, quite the opposite, I was feeling more anxious.
Taking a few deep breaths to calm myself down I settled into a comfortable seated position for a few minutes of calming meditation. Gently shrugging my shoulders to release some of the tension my gaze landed on my college diplomas – a Bachelors degree in psychology and a Masters Degree in Social Work and suddenly I realized that I had made my choice long ago – words would be my weapons.
So, I choose to arm myself with the skill to communicate, I choose to invest in finding a writing coach, I choose to start a blog to foster dialogue, I choose to seek out and amplify the voices of those who are not being heard and for those that are vulnerable, I choose to invest my money in organizations that advance the causes I care about – I choose words.