Living in the Real World?

City Streets

City Streets

The internet is aflame with gun arguments right now, impassioned and extreme on both sides.  On one site I’m a member of, I read a comment in defense of private citizens keeping themselves armed (without stricter regulations) to the effect of for those of us who don’t live in ivory towers…live in the real world…danger…needing a weapon…and a few cities were named, to make the point that (s)he was not referencing bucolic pastures or suburban houses made of ticky-tacky.  That specific comment really struck me, because as a city dweller I’ve always thought of this as an issue for those who don’t live in cities.  People living in wide open spaces who don’t have police and police stations within spitting distance, and of course, visions (fed by the media, no personal experience) of compounds populated by paranoid folks who don’t trust the commie gubmint.  Obviously there are criminals with guns here in the city, law enforcement officers, and those who work in the Diamond District, but nope, I don’t know of any neighbors who are campaigning to keep legal arsenals.

Several of my online friends who aren’t American have been asking me questions, all pretty much boiling down to a blend of what-the-fuck? why? guns? and America?

I touched on this in my last post, but I want to talk about this a bit more, and hope readers will join the conversation.  You’re welcome to agree or disagree with me, but no personal attacks or blanket slurs.  While Americans have a common bond by definition, our experiences of life in America–what constitutes the “real world,” varies greatly, and that plays a huge part in individual stances.

Maybe you grew up with inappropriate jokes about those who lived in the Bronx.  Or Detroit, or Chicago.  I grew up with inappropriate jokes about places in big sky country (is that a nickname for an actual place or an idea?), where the men were men and the sheep were nervous.  Shouldn’t we be past all that now?

You all know Mrs Fringe is a New Yawkah; born here, raised here, guessing I’ll collect social security here too.  I ride the subways every day.  I’m not wealthy, never have been.  When I was younger, I worked in downtown Brooklyn, when it was very, very different from the artsy, hipster paradise it is today.  Our office was next to the Brooklyn Arms Hotel, and every day on my way from the subway station, I’d feel the crack vials crunch under my feet while I rushed past the Brooklyn Arms Hotel (a particularly notorious welfare hotel) and hoped I didn’t get clipped in the head by something flying out a window–’cause that happened regularly.  Of course, I wasn’t first starting my day when I went into the office, that was after three hours of “field work,” which involved walking through neighborhoods that weren’t part of any tourist attractions, and visiting clients who weren’t particularly happy to see my smiling face at 7am.  Sometimes I was walking those streets at 1am, because of a late shift or an emergency–and trust me, this was long before New York was spit shined and spiffed up.  I’m not trying to glorify life in the city or America, there’s crime, there are problems, and yes, I’ve had a moment or ten where I’ve been frightened.

I don’t live in the roughest neighborhood, it’s one that’s been “gentrified.”  I’m not young, I remember when it wasn’t.  Gentrified in (most of) NY means there’s still a good mix of everyone–race, culture, and economics–sharing the same block and the same public schools.  Three kids, three elementary schools, and two of those elementary schools were classified as Title I schools.  Title I means there’s a high percentage of children who come from low-income families who qualify for free/reduced lunch.  If you’re unfamiliar, trust me, your income has to be pretty damned low for your kids to qualify for free lunch, and yes, here in Fringeland, we’ve had many years where our kiddos qualified because life.

On my block there are a mix of residences.  Google tells me one brownstone is on the market for $6 million dollars, average for the block and neighborhood.  Next to it is a housing project (yanno, the projects), there’s a small building that I think is a co-op (a very NY thing, you buy your apartment, but technically you own shares in the building, not your apartment, so everything you want or do–including the purchase of the place–has to be approved by the co-op board, generally a bunch of residents who take pleasure in agonizing over awning colors and making residents jump through as many hoops as possible), and there’s my building, which is part of a program from the 60’s/70’s designed to keep working class people in the city.  One block over starts the SROs and a couple of shelters.  Wikipedia says SROs are for one or two people, but I know plenty of families that live in those one room dwellings.  Regardless of which address they live in, I recognize most of the long term faces on the block and immediate neighborhood, and they recognize me, too.  We smile, nod, maybe say Happy Holidays. My family’s experience of America is quite different than that of the family in a brownstone up the street, and different again than that of a family in the projects.

Even if I only look within my building, there’s a mix of skin colors, ethnicities and cultural backgrounds; I know of at least ten different languages spoken within these bricks, twelve different religions, atheists–likely more, this is NY, we don’t talk personal religion all that much.  Multicultural is a fact of life here, not a talking point, and definitely not something that strikes fear in my heart.  So what’s my point?

We’ve got a lot of questions that need to be discussed and examined, but more guns can’t possibly be the answer.  If your experience of America is different than mine, that’s part of what makes America what it is.  It doesn’t invalidate my experience any more than mine invalidates yours.  Let’s talk about what’s real, what it is to live in x city, x suburb, x town; talk about it based on real life experiences, not phantoms of what could happen based on shadows and misdirection.  Maybe you’d be afraid if you found yourself on a subway platform at 1am and saw a few of my neighbors waiting for the 2 train.  I’m pretty sure I’d piss my pants if I found myself faced with a bear in the woods.  Hell, I run into the house when I’m visiting friends in New Jersey and a deer steps into their backyard.  But my world is still real, thankyouverymuch.  Real city, real New Yawk, real America.  There have been quite a few times where I wished I had cab fare, but I never wished for a gun.

18 comments

  1. I never wished for a gun either, although I have been robbed (purse and appartments) and attacked. Of all places in Paris which most people see as the symbol of sophistication and civilization. Paris is a gorgeous city and I still love it, despite its violence rarely showcased.
    In the US I am very grateful for the chance my family took to live in various states and places. I’ve felt safer everywhere than I ever did in France. I don’t understand the gun culture. I don’t own any weapon. And I have no intention to ever get one. Regarding the recent shooting in CA I think that we need to separate domestic and international terrorism from the shootings commited by mentally ill people. We got a serious issue with mental illness in our country that needs to be adressed with urgency. And of course in all cases we need to ask why it is so easy to buy weapons or have them sent here from abroad.
    As a last thought I add that although I won’t ever hunt (I could never kill any living creature) I understand hunting as part of a way of life in the country and mountains (again very foreign to me).
    Have a peaceful holiday season, Mrs. Fringe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think most cities have a certain level of crime and violence, due to the nature of congestion and the fact that most cities have a significant percentage of poverty.
      I also think there are several layers we need to sift through. Gun violence in general, crime, suicides, international terrorism and domestic terrorism. I feel uncomfortable with looking at the question of mental illness through the same lens, someone with a diagnosis of depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder is very, very different than someone who is plain old paranoid, misogynistic, or fucked in the head, and so decides to orchestrate and carry out a mass shooting. The other, not to be downplayed piece of this hesitation is that it’s true, there is a definite racial component to when the outcry is blamed on “mental illness.”
      I completely agree that we need to look at how and why it’s so easy for people to buy weapons here, but also the types and quantity of weapons being purchased. Nothing in this country will get better if we don’t start examining these issues, and instituting checks and balances.
      I’m not a hunter, either, but respect that it is important to many here in the US.
      Thank you for weighing in, Evelyn, I’m wishing a peaceful holiday season for you and yours, as well. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We do have guns, and we don’t hunt for food. My husband has a handgun, which is always locked up, but which he may begin to carry while on his hiking/fishing trips in the mountains, as protection against cougars or bears. I could happily live without them, though I have never been tested by having my home broken into, or my person assaulted. I suppose circumstances alter cases, but I see no social benefit to the average person being able to own a military style weapon. They are created for only one purpose, and that’s to kill people quickly, and in large numbers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. While I don’t own any guns, and don’t see any point where I will, I understand there are reasons for many. Ok, that’s part of different lifestyles, philosophies, needs. I don’t see how/why that should preclude studying gun violence, a real waiting period for a real background check before purchasing a gun, laws on how they should be stored, and restricting the types of weapons available for a private citizen. Will some people pass through background checks that shouldn’t? I’m sure the answer is yes, but I’m equally sure more will be filtered out.
      Thanks for weighing in, Kiltfan!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I would love to see the same ownership requirements that we have for cars, including insurance. I’m confident that if the insurance companies became involved we’d have the road cleared for all sorts of research, etc.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Mrs F good for you for opening this topic, or I should say, group of topics on your blog. Goodness knows we humans have a lot to hash out these days. I was going to say “all of a sudden” but the issues are old ones, aren’t they? Something has made a difference, though, and many of us perceive a crisis. There have been shocking events. We all know what they are so I won’t go into that part.

    I’ve been engaging the discussion today, not because I know what I think we should do, because I don’t, but because the one thing I do know is we have to start hearing each other and we have to try mightily to find common ground instead of setting ourselves against each other immediately. And as I type that last I feel I am as guilty of it as any, because so much of this cuts so deep into closely held emotions and values.

    I wrote a poem and put it on my blog the other day, called Death Threats, because I kept hearing of such threats and it was beginning to be painful. Then today I posted one called Credible, because the phrase “credible threat” was rubbing me raw. I was a little nervous about both of these. I honestly don’t enjoy controversy or confrontation. But both poems, particularly “Credible”, go into layers of belief and semi-conscious attitudes (as I perceive them of course) which I wanted to shine some light on. Healing light, is my hope.

    If I may link? This is “Credible” : http://walkintothemystery.blogspot.com/2015/12/credible.html
    and it was written just before we all learned of the shooting in San Bernardino, but after the previous one in Colorado. It is so sad that it’s getting hard to keep track.

    Do each of us have an individual “real world”? Sometimes it seems we do.

    Thank you, Mrs F, for your consciousness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I read “Credible” this morning, Kyla, and loved it. (thought I left a comment, maybe it didn’t go through.
      In any case, yes, yes, yes. We have to have these conversations, and I’m starting to think that we the people, regular, average people who make up this society, are going to HAVE to be the ones to model reasoned discourse for our elected leaders, reject the hysteria, the sound bites, the political pandering.
      With so many shocking events, we have to. Either that, or we say we aren’t shocked, we don’t care, and we’re just going to accept this as the new normal. We can’t do both; accept it, refuse to listen to each other, refuse to compromise, and then say oh! what a shocking tragedy.
      Thank you for weighing in Kyla, and again, thank you for Credible. ❤ ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Have to say this I do not get why people say things like “welcome to the real world” it isn’t as if we live in a pretend world, ok maybe some people do they spend all their time playing computer games or Xbox games where there is fake worlds so when they venture out into the real world they get a nasty shock as how it expensive it is and how life can be a bit of an uphill slog. Also have to say this was a bloody great post just so you know

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Joanne! 🙂 It’s so true, our experiences and perceptions can be very different, but NONE of us are living in a fake world. Those bills, worries, responsibilities? Real for all of us. ❤

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  5. A little late, but…

    I mentioned in your post before this one that we have a shotgun under the bed. It’s not for bears. We live in the shadow of Dee-troit City. In a melting pot of a suburb, full of working class people of all color, creed, etc.

    It’s Suburbia, U.S.A., but not the suburbia I grew up in, where doors weren’t locked and everybody knew everybody else. It’s not that world anymore. Strangers walk down the middle of my street now. My sister’s purse was stolen at knifepoint, one block from me. A desperate drug-addicted kid kicked in our side door. The house two down from ours is a rental and people move in and out of there, people I don’t know, people I don’t want to know. People who look at me without smiling when I drive by. I’m scared of those people.

    So yeah, we have a shotgun and it’s under the bed, and if I have to, I will use it. Last resort, but I’m glad it’s there.

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    1. Never too late 🙂 I can’t imagine myself shooting anyone, but I respect the need to compromise, so those who want to keep a firearm or two in their homes can do so (safely and legally). It’s the lack of willingness to compromise, to see other sides, that causes the problems, imo, because that leads to an inability to see each other as human beings. Including the “bad guys.” Right to defend your life? Ok. Right to defend your tv by taking someone else’s life? Not so much. 😀

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      1. Agree with that, for sure. I love my tv, but not that much. 🙂

        The issue with gun control is that right now, we need more of it. And the NRA, in particular, is unwilling to concede that. And too many politicians are willing to take no action if it means re-election. And too many right-wingers are preparing for judgement day. And too many disenfranchised people are willing to cause others hurt, to alleviate their own. Too many automatic weapons are falling into the hands of young people who don’t appreciate life. Too many weapons, too little control.

        One person with an automatic weapon can do incredible damage, kill a shitload of innocent people. We need to do everything in our power to keep that gun away from that person.

        Thank you for this post, mrs fringe. I hope this conversation is a stepping stone to action.

        -kk

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Agree, on all counts. I want to believe this conversation (and by this I mean all across the web, not specifically Fringeland) will be a stepping stone, but frankly, I’m feeling disheartened and skeptical as I read the blanket comments, with so many self proclaimed good-guys putting personal rights and convenience above those to our communities. :/

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  6. I’m still thinking about this and right now the “real world” part of the question has floated to the surface for me because I realize I honestly don’t want to live in the “real world” as it is. Of course, I do, and I am not about to argue for denial or pretense, either. I am all for looking events square in the face and keeping eyes open and awake and aware at all times (well, figuratively, of course).

    I respect the comments of so many gun owners and advocates for gun ownership. I do not wish to hand my security (ha!) over to the government! I do not wish to discourage independence. I know that in rural areas, especially in the West where the distances are truly vast, having and knowing how to use a gun is a pretty important part of life for many. If I lived out there? I have no idea whether I would own a gun or not. I think not. My approach to life, while I maintain as much alertness to events as I am capable of, is pretty darn mystical and I just can’t see being a shooter. Or worrying about my safety! But I am not in any way of the opinion that others should do as I do or think as I think.

    In closer quarters, guns tend to make me nervous unless I know the carrier is really responsible and skilled. Far far too many who own guns aren’t either of those and that’s a huge problem. I honestly don’t see a “one size fits all” answer! I read that Australia did in fact severely limit gun ownership, despite being a somewhat conservative culture (to use the word conservative loosely but I can’t think of a better at the moment.) Even so, I can’t imagine it here, though I might wish for it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I understand that urge to stick my fingers in my ears, close my eyes, and lalalalalala! Sadly, I think that’s what’s got us to where we are now, not willing to acknowledge what’s real.
      Guns make me very nervous, even as I acknowledge that isn’t true for everyone, and for some they are a necessity. An interesting point, I had a conversation yesterday that included a couple of friends who are Australian, and they said at the time the restrictions were placed, there were many of the same objections, but here they are, with significantly lowered deaths since the restrictions were placed. Also included were changes in access to mental health care, and even before the restrictions a real and successful initiative to address suicides.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yep. Here they are. The real world changes all the time. We don’t seem to know how to make that happen very reliably, though.

        Anyway, I DO live in the real world, MY real world. I deal with what shows up in my awareness and experience every day and meet it as fully as I can. So far I am grateful to say this has not included gun injuries or deaths, though it has included its share of tragedies.

        Someone said this: When you learn of a troubling event “out there”, before you let yourself get too upset, ask yourself honestly “Is there anything I can do about this?” If there is, do it. If there is not, bless everyone involved and go back to focusing on your own life and making it a good one.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, the world around us changes, and what makes our worlds real don’t always include the same details.
          I think your last paragraph is where I’m caught, and why I am upset by this. I believe there is something we can do about these mass shootings, the number of people dying because of gun violence. It may not be within the individual power of any of us to make fast and sweeping changes, but public discourse and opinion will hopefully, eventually, make a difference. 🙂

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