NRA vibe in Deep South

Sunday Star-Times - Escape - - FRONT PAGE -

Fi­nally! After years of hard work and ne­go­ti­a­tions I can proudly say that I’ve done a gig in In­ver­cargill. It wasn’t easy. It costs more to fly down there than it costs to go to Aus­tralia (I ended up go­ing through Queen­stown). And don’t get me started on the venues. Too late! You got me started. The In­ver­cargill Civic The­atre seats 1000 peo­ple. I don’t think there are 1000 peo­ple in In­ver­cargill.

The Reper­tory The­atre was per­fect – but they told me they were ‘‘booked out for the whole year’’. I drove past that night. It was closed. They re­ally didn’t want me!

The In­ver­cargill Brew­ery was go­ing to do the gig, but it fell over be­cause they don’t have a liquor li­cence. It’s a brew­ery! We lit­er­ally couldn’t or­gan­ise a p...-up in a brew­ery. Thanks to Suzie Q, a won­der­ful Span­ish restau­rant, for sav­ing me. We had our­selves a show.

And what a show it was. About 15 min­utes in, a large Amer­i­can car pulled up right out­side the restau­rant street front win­dow I was stand­ing in front of and Mayor Tim Shad­bolt got out. He then came into the venue, past the stage to give me a copy of his book. It was off the hook.

But it was after the gig when things started to get re­ally weird. I was cor­nered by a man who de­scribed him­self as one of those ‘‘Trump sup­port­ers you were slag­ging off be­fore’’

‘‘This will be in­ter­est­ing,’’ I thought. It was not. What I got was a pas­sion­ate NRA sup­porter talk­ing at me for seven min­utes (I was check­ing the time on my phone) non-stop with­out me talk­ing once. ‘‘This must be what mansplain­ing feels like,’’ I thought. ‘‘You can’t mansplain to me … I’m a man!’’

He told me that he was a ‘‘his­to­rian’’. That’s never a good sign. In 2017, if some­one says they’re a his­to­rian and they’re not on stage at a uni­ver­sity do­ing a lec­ture at that mo­ment, or sign­ing a copy of a book they have just writ­ten, pub­lished by a rep­utable pub­lish­ing house … then run!

I’d barely said a word be­fore he started telling me Amer­ica didn’t need gun con­trol. ‘‘Kiwis don’t un­der­stand Amer­i­can cul­ture,’’ he lec­tured me. ‘‘Of course, shoot­ing in­no­cent civil­ians with mil­i­tary grade au­to­matic ri­fles is a proud tra­di­tion,’’ I said. a heck of a lot more ac­tual gun vi­o­lence!?’’

I was get­ting an­noyed. I couldn’t un­der­stand his per­spec­tive. Surely after tragedies like the re­cent shoot­ings in Las Ve­gas most Kiwis would agree the US needs to limit the avail­abil­ity of au­to­matic ri­fles? He dis­agreed: ‘‘More peo­ple died that day in road ac­ci­dents in Cal­i­for­nia!’’ What sort of weird ar­gu­ment is that? I’m not pro-road deaths, that’s bad too! It’s a sep­a­rate is­sue! Was I go­ing crazy? He may as well have said ‘‘Well, can­cer is also bad.’’

I laughed when he talked about ‘‘mass knife stab­bings in China be­ing cov­ered up by the anti-gun lobby’’. I cringed when he told me guns were needed to pro­tect women, who are nat­u­rally at­tracted to al­pha males who com­mit do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

I told him that I thought he was a ‘‘loony’’ and then im­me­di­ately con­sid­ered buy­ing a gun to pro­tect my­self.

‘‘Don’t sink to per­sonal in­sults,’’ he told me. ‘‘I don’t call you a leftie w.....!’’

‘‘You just did!’’ I replied. ‘‘No I didn’t!’’ He was quick as light­ning. I guess he won that one. I’m just glad he didn’t shoot me. I re­ally want to go back to In­ver­cargill some time.

JONATHAN ERNST

Anti-NRA pro­test­ers out­side the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion head­quar­ters in Fair­fax, Vir­ginia, in July.

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