“Is there something you’ve always wanted to do but were too scared or embarrassed to try? Ask the Human Guinea Pig to do it for you.”
So what was the wild, dangerous thing that some reader sent the “Human Guinea Pig” out to do?
She went to fire a gun at a shooting range.
Nothing so reveals the red/blue divide so starkly as the blue-zoners’ prissy and often hysterical attitude towards guns. Reading this article is like watching the old movie where a city slicker tries to mount a horse at a dude ranch and ends up facing the wrong way. I find it uproariously funny that going to shoot a gun is the subject of breathless journalism. What’s up for next week, power drills?
For blue-zoners, in their dense urban cores, guns are exotic, dangerous and (apparently) sexy. For red-zoners, guns are tools and sporting gear. I grew up in a small rural community where every, and I do mean every, household had at least one firearm and everybody, even little old ladies, knew how to shoot. When I was in school, people often had rifles and shotguns in their vehicles on school grounds during hunting season. Nobody thought anything of it.
People from blue zones often have a perception of guns that borders on the clinically phobic. Once I while driving a rental car, I got a call from the rental agency asking if I could check if there was a gun left in the car by a police officer who drove the car before. I checked under the driver’s seat and there was a small-caliber automatic in an ankle holster. I confirmed the safety, popped the clip, checked for a chambered round and then carried the weapon to the front desk so they could pick it up. When I told a coworker who was from blue California what had happened, she freaked. She said she would have called the police to come get the weapon because handling guns was just too dangerous! I didn’t have the heart to tell her I had been shooting since I was five.
Red-zoners just can’t take blue-zoners seriously when they talk about guns because they come off as hysterical, pitchfork-waving lunatics. Their perception of the dangerousness of firearms is so over-the-top as to reduce their arguments to absurdity. They sound as credible as Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson describing the nightlife in San Francisco. Yet blue-zoners expect red-zoners to defer to them in political debates about guns and get angry and confused when they don’t. They can’t relate to the perspective of the red-zoners at all.
As with many issues, nobody is more provincial than the truly cosmopolitan. Tune in next week when Slate hires me to write 500 words on the thrills and chills of riding the subway.