Tolerance

By Joseph H.

Coronado Island in San Diego is a great place for a business trip. As a new employee I was recently sent there for some training in how utility companies set rates (I think there is another blog somewhere where you can send your nasty comments). As is customary during these things there is usually one evening where everyone gets together for booze and dinner (mostly booze). Since all of the attendees were from the utility sector I found myself at a table with three lawyers from DC, Virginia, and Indiana, as well as a Public Utility Commissioner. The conversation between myself and the attorney from Indiana turns to deer hunting in Indiana, to predator hunting in Arizona, to firearms in general . . .

Then from across the table the Commissioner lobs this little gem while fingering the label of his empty beer, “I hate guns, there is no point to owning them, and no one should be allowed to keep them in their home.” I don’t know why but everyone stopped talking and turns to face me…why?…I have no idea.

What a blanket statement! No argument, no facts, just in your face opinion. As the blood starts pumping, I think of all the ways to respond to such a statement.

“Why?” I asked, trying to pull emotion out of the discussion.

“They are too dangerous and unpredictable; besides, you have young kids, and they will probably get into them, and kill themselves.” This last doozy was punctuated by a big drink from another beer bottle.

Wow, what a class act. Ok, you can share your opinion, that’s cool, but now you are attacking my family! I was getting upset, but we are in a public setting with contacts, and colleagues all around. Cooler heads must prevail.

“All my firearms are locked in a safe and kept separate from the ammunition, which is locked as well, besides, why would my kids want to get into my guns?” I could tell my question stunned him.

“Because kids are curious, and want to get into dad’s stuff, you can’t deny that they go through your things while you are away.”

“Oh, I’m counting on it. I love their curiosity, and their questions, and you better believe that my 4 year old wants to handle everything he sees dad handle. So I let them.”

“You let your kids handle your guns?!”

I could tell he thought I was crazy.

“Yes. I try to take the mysticism away from my firearms so they are as commonplace as my truck, the knives in the kitchen drawer, and the dog. I teach my kids to respect things rather than fear them. Of course the handgun is checked by dad, and by mom (which is awesome!), and the rules of safety are always obeyed. The kids get to touch, handle, and point firearms inside the safety of our home. I let them pull the trigger, and explain how the gun works.”

I thought I had won this round.

“Is that how you teach them about drugs, and alcohol? By letting them see it, and handle it, and experiment with it.”

“Uh….no. Aren’t there laws about that? That stuff is addictive and can seriously mess up a kid.”

“What, a bullet can’t mess up a kid? Yeah, there are laws, and there should be laws about owning guns for that exact reason.”

I guess my Kenny Logins dance montage will have to wait.

“There are laws that prevent certain people from obtaining guns, and legal regulation to jump through to obtain them.” I realized this was a week retort, but I felt attacked and had to do something.

“Yeah, but what about in the home?”

I could tell he thought he won.

My knockout retort came to me in an instant, “You want government to start regulating what can and can’t be taught in the home?”

I wanted to jump up and perform an elaborate touchdown dance. 

“I guess you’re right about that, but I still don’t like guns, and the thought of kids having access to them makes me upset.”

“I promise never to force you to buy a gun.”

The Commissioner started to laugh, and ordered another beer. It was at this time that I realized he had been drinking this whole time! He was drunk (and he still nearly kicked my ass in this informal debate!). He will probably never remember this conversation ever happened. He’ll go back to his room, pass out and wake up the next morning never realizing what happened. What a waste!

Or was it? Remember, the three other lawyers?

Wait, the sleazy part was in the bar? I thought that was what the beach volleyball was for.

I might not have been able to convince the commissioner about anything, but the way I handled the situation spoke volumes to these other colleagues. Later at the Kansas City Barbecue Bar (the one where Top Gun was filmed) each of these attorneys made encouraging comments about how I handled the situation, current legislation on gun laws, and how they wanted to get “more into guns.”

Cue the touchdown dance.

It was a great learning experience for me. I was so worried about not being able to defend my beliefs that day, but I would have felt even worse if my unseen audience saw me act in way that was not in harmony with those beliefs. Alway, be aware of your unseen audience. They are the ones whose opinions can be changed.

42 Responses to P320 Entry: Remember Your Unseen Audience

  1. Just another tinpot fascist who wants to rule the lives of others. But no one will be allowed to inspect HIS home, no way, Jose.

    “In beer there is truth” So true in this instance.

  2. “Is that how you teach them about drugs, and alcohol? By letting them see it, and handle it, and experiment with it.”

    Actually, that is exactly how kids should learn about alcohol. Gradually, with their parents, at home, while supervised, and not in the parking lot behind 7-11 or some random stranger’s kegger.

    • I’ve seen teenagers, just about old enough to drive, in bars having beer with their parents. Europe, of course.

      No one batted an eye.

    • I was born and raised in Canada, and didn’t move here until I was almost 17. I loved America, but your puritanical roots has severely warped your view of alcohol. I was so confused the first time I went to a keg party in the woods and everyone started fleeing when the cops showed up. Where I come from, there is NO SUCH THING as getting an underage drinking ticket. We used to stand outside the convenience store at 13, asking for good samaritans to buy us cases at the store. And they would, every. single. time. They’d smile and say “you kids have fun and be careful.” We had our first drinking parties at our house, with my parents supervising. When someone got sick, they’d laugh at them, and figure they’d learn next time. By the time we were 16 years old, drinking alcohol was no big deal. By the time you’re legal, nobody cares. Sure, there’s alcohol, but it’s not the central focus of any weekend evening.

      Contrast that with what I experience during my Big 10 undergrad days (think biggest party school reputation). All of the kids were obsessed with drinking. The alcohol itself was the goal and purpose of the evening, not the people you were doing the drinking with. Where I’m from, nobody gets blackout drunk anymore by the time they’re 18-years old. By the time I was done with my college days, plenty of seniors still got blackout drunk. It’s not a healthy attitude. Your kids are going to drink. Teach them to do it responsibly. Thankfully, in my state of adoption, you can let your kids drink with you in an establishment that serves alcohol, as long as the parent is with them. They don’t even need to be 18. I plan on taking advantage of this. My kids will thank me for it later.

    • That’s how I was raised… In the US. My father was chided by his mother, but I was never the kid in high school drinking to extremes. And by the time I got to college, all my friends were either inexperienced – and, therefore, dangerous to themselves and others with alcohol – or had lame attitudes toward it “I can’t drink tequila anymore because it wrecked me in high school.” Whereas for me, wine was a regular additive to fancy meals and the first shot I took was handed to me by a parent when I was 14 – who swiftly started laughing when I barely choked it down, followed by “that’s what that’s like. Worth it? Maybe, maybe not.” Alcohol wasn’t taboo, and neither, incidentally, were guns. Respect – taught by experience, in my opinion – makes all the difference.

      • We handled my nephews in a slightly different way. My brother-in-law and I have fairly expensive taste in beer and liquor. I semi-reqularly buy expensive scotch. My older nephew, who just turned 21, can’t afford to buy anything he likes.

        P.S. I gave him a pistol for for his birthday. That makes me the “cool” uncle.

    • It drives me crazy that the law in Michigan is such that I may not, under pain of criminal penalties, introduce my own children to responsible adult drinking habits prior to their 21st birthday. The state would prefer that they learn how to actually use alcohol in an illegal setting from the least responsible of their peers.

    • I was able to drink beer with meals as a child. My parents were emigres from Europe, where that’s normal.

    • Just the way I was brought up and how I raised mine. Guns and alcohol were never a mystery to me and mine. My family’s credo was “you can try it but the consequences are your own”. We were trained for the safe handling of firearms very young and always allowed a ‘little taste” at the holidays. I can remember the epic battles for the cherries in my mother’s Manhattans! My sisters usually won. We all shot from the age of eight and none of us has ever shot a human (at least as civilians). My own children are shooters and my daughter is a veritable master trap shooter. Hold to your beliefs George, you are on the right track.

    • Or, you can teach abstinence by example. I don’t see the point in training my children to drink something that doesn’t taste good, is over-priced, and has such a history of abuse. That would just be dumb.

  3. We are advised not to judge ALL Muslims by the actions of a few lunatics, but we are admonished to judge ALL GUN OWNERS by the actions of a few lunatics. Say what?!

    In the latest shooting we are told again and again by the media that it was a “GUN RAMPAGE”, yet HALF of the people he killed (beyond himself) were killed with a knife, BEFORE he picked up the gun(s). Say what?!

    Common sense is so rare these days that more than half the people must consider it a super power; that they will never attain!

  4. Debates are to change the opinion of the audience. If you can convince your opponent you are right, that is just an added benefit.

  5. Dontforget. This “commissioner” is an appointed official (ie, political hack/fundraiser/boot licker). They got the job for kissing a$$ not by being good at anything in particular

  6. This is exactly the problem.

    Not to say that the article or circumstances were wrong, mind. But we can’t view every situation like that as a debate. Because sooner or later, you’re gonna get stomped.

    I experienced a similar event: except when I asked for bona fides, miss anti explained that shed had a gun pointed in her face by one negligent teenager back in the day. No amount of fact based stats is going to overcome that any more then a stat about air travel safety will comfort a Malasian Air 370 passengers family.

    We have to move beyond debates and quotes. We need to turn around the culture, not play Risk with people. Culture has a greater influence on attitudes then fact based policy, which bad news because were just one person. We are just one voice compared to the entire media, the government, most doctors, most school staff and faculty, and anti gun trade associations. I’ll suspect most men at that table won’t remember even having that conversation inside of six months. But they will remember the anti gun sound byte from that blonde CNN anchor .

  7. Correct response: “Thank you for sharing your opinion.”

    And then just bet back to your discussion.

    Why did you engage this fool? He clearly wasn’t interested in learning, or teaching. He was just trying to berate you. In the end, you both probably walked away thinking you “won”. But won what, a silly pissing contest about guns?

    You should have taken the high road and not let him sucker you into a pissing contest. You didn’t win. You got played a fool.

    • The author went on to say that he later met the other people who’d been at the table and they said they’d been influenced in a positive way. Hence the title of the post.

  8. Welcome to California. You didn’t mention which state the PUC was from … but that attitude, and especially the one exemplified by the picture at the top of the article, is widespread in the Golden State. That’s one reason my wife and I were so happy to leave – it was like a frog being slowly boiled, being immersed in the hypocrisy.

  9. Remember your unseen audience………
    Good rule
    First impressions are often make or break.

  10. Good job handling the situation.

    I’m not as tactful with such things. When people keep throwing out the “I don’t think, I don’t believe, and I don’t like…” I always lose interest quickly.

    I end conversation. “I’m armed, whether you like it, or not, that’s how rights work”, usually does the job.

  11. “Is that how you teach them about drugs, and alcohol? By letting them see it, and handle it, and experiment with it.”

    Because handling and pulling the trigger of an unloaded weapon has the same effect on the body as ingesting drugs and alcohol.

  12. I grew up in rural Minnesota. We had a different culture about children and the risks they encountered. We didn’t much have to worry about looking before we crossed the street. We had to worry about just about everything in our environment; mainly farm machinery, animals, sharp tools, heavy objects, fire . . . Our parents taught us by example and admonition to be careful. I remember to this day my dad’s response when I asked to use the bench grinder: “Be careful. Don’t let your work get caught in the wheel. I saw a man killed by a grinder.” (My environment was also populated with molten lead, asbestos, mercury, and acid.)
    My father’s shotgun was always unlocked in his closet – every day of my childhood. I don’t remember playing with it (notwithstanding that I knew where everything was kept and played with everything I was not supposed to get out-of-order.) Instead, I played with my father’s shotgun inventory in his hardware store. No one paid any attention to me during my shotgun play: not my father; not the justice-of-the-peace who worked for my father; not a single customer. (The shotguns were not loaded of course; the shells were kept in unlocked cabinets 12 feet away.)
    (Incidentally, as a child-sales-clerk, I sold dynamite, caps and fuse occasionally.)
    No one in my town ever had an accident – to say nothing of a crime – involving a gun.
    Accidents happened with cars, trucks and farm machinery.
    Gun safety for children is little different than any other kind of safety for children. Whether it’s crossing streets, cutlery, machinery, cars or guns, we teach age-appropriate lessons. When kids are too young to learn we keep our guns locked-up just as parents (and grand-parents) keep just about everything locked-up.

  13. I have had this same thing said. I just say;
    “My kids have been shooting with me many times. As soon as they showed that they had learned the four simple, basic, rules of safe gun handling, I took them out to shoot gophers. The first time they actually shot one, and saw for themselves the way even a 22 RF bullet turns a living thing inside out, they respected firearms, and have never played with one or pointed it at anything they were not willing to destroy. It worked the same for all three of my kids. EDUCATION is the key here, as it is in most of life. Ignorence and fear is exactly the way that tragedys happen. People brought up to hate and fear are more likely to snap and do something terrible.”
    Then the opponent usually wants to end the conversation, or change the subject. But one time it lead to questions about the four basic rules, which lead to an invite to go out shooting, which lead to a new gun owner! But only one time. Most people will not change their minds ever, no matter what. Note how, in nature, inflexible and ridgid things are always the first to break…

  14. You should have asked the guy if he thought that instead of teaching children how to swim in order to prevent drowning deaths, it would be better to force people to fill in their swimming pools, and special permits granted only after passing a water survival course be required to visit lakes and oceans.

  15. You handled that very well.
    “Is that how you teach them about drugs, and alcohol? By letting them see it, and handle it, and experiment with it.” Pretty much, yeah. From this experimentation, I know I hate being drunk, I cannot stand vodka or even the smell of tobacco, but red wines, watered-down whisky and Peroni beer are fine. From this I have learnt, really learnt hands-on, about this a lot better than at the dining-room table, with orange squash and chocolate biccies.

  16. The “Commissioner” is exactly the kind of guy who, if asked on his death bed what about his life he was most proud of, would answer without hesitation: “Public Utility Commissioner.” Every lefty nanny-stater’s wet dream is to be the commissioner of something.

  17. Did Commissioner Gordon drive home a wee tipsy that night? In several hundred pounds of steel, glass and volatile fuel? Where his debatably impaired reactions would have quite possibly put the lives of several families and their children at risk on his way home? Should someone who owns such a deadly device even be allowed in a bar to begin with? Does his family know he owns such a destructive machine? How can he conscionably own one if he has children? Surely he’ll drive them into incoming traffic one day… Just by owning it. I’ll bet he keeps his car locked up where the kids cannot even see it and the gasoline stored in a separate locked area until it comes time to drive somewhere, right?

    Hypocrite. A drunk hypocrite, but a hypocrite nonetheless.
    Sadly, this is the logic a lot of sober people follow.

  18. Casting pearls before swine Joseph. I just tell a##holes it’s my right as an American.

  19. This:

    “Alway(s – ed), be aware of your unseen audience. They are the ones whose opinions can be changed.”

  20. Nicely done Joseph avoiding being baited and letting him off the hook without losing face. Poor guy was probably stressed out just being there and having to pretend to be someone, in charge, while around a lot of people who are very experienced and competent and actually know what they are doing in the utility business.

    If the good Commish was appointed anytime in last couple years he’s likely a Democrat, either a termed out pol, or someones who gave a lot to the Governor, or Democratic Party, which infers he has typical dem values and opinions. The lawyers I am not surprised about. Land use and energy is complicated and requires brains and good work, not B.S. and political connections, like in prosecutor biz.

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