Next week, I get my Florida driver’s license changed to an Alabama driver’s license in the same office as where they give out gun permits. The handwritten sign (Sharpie on pink construction paper) on the office door says so.
I don’t know why I’m surprised, but this little fact blew my mind (or, if you prefer, shot my head off). Surely – surely – fewer people get gun permits than driver’s licenses in this state? I try to stay out of the gun debate not because I don’t have opinions I can’t back up with fact, but because it’s one of those issues that only pisses me off. I figure I can only allow myself to get that upset over a few political issues in the interest of not transforming into a quivering ball of neuroses, and guns lose out to gay and women’s rights. That may change in the future, but right now, I am very live-and-let-live because I know that in the state of Alabama, gun culture isn’t changing anytime soon.
But oh LORD being around guns makes me nervous. I have no reason to be nervous. I know how to shoot. I’ve eaten delicious deer from one such hunting expedition. But the sight of a gun always makes me inch away, breath held as if I’m just waiting for disaster.
There are a lot of things about this state that I will never understand or be able to feel comfortable with. The lack of distribution of wealth. The devotion to the antiquated notion of “state’s rights”. The way minorities, gays, and women are sometimes treated. The lack of funding for special needs children and adults. I will be the first to defend this state and say it’s not thaaaaat bad, but I’m a cis-gendered, lily-white woman with traditionally femme features and style. What do I know of racism or homophobia? So while I defend Alabama as not being like it is in the movies – and Alabama is not like it is in the movies – there are some really chilling aspects to this state that seem so backwards to my little socialist idealist self.
I’ve never fit in politically here. This started in the second grade when I dated a little boy named Jon Green. Dating in the second grade meant that I was April from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, he was Michelangelo, and together we beat up Charlie Smith, our (unwitting) Shredder. One day Charlie told me that dating Jon was illegal, because Jon was black. SECOND GRADE, PEOPLE. THIS RACIST BULLSHIT WAS ALREADY HAPPENING. In fourth grade, we had to vote whether or not we preferred the idea of capitalism or communism. I was the little girl who raised her hand for communism (whoops). Things went downhill from there in the sixth grade when I began to realize that pro-life people really did exist – given that my family was pro-choice, I simply had no idea that people had different opinions on the right to choose. THIS WAS REAL? And so on, and so on.
When people talk politics here, it’s almost always assumed that you’re conservative, and it is such a clusterfuck when you correct people that you’re not. I do, or don’t, strictly depending upon my mood at the time. Sometimes, the last thing I want to do is to get into a “WELL LET ME CHANGE YOUR MIND, YOU SWEET LITTLE STUPID WOMAN” argument with some dudebro in a pickup truck or society lady with pearls around her neck. Sometimes I’ll fight back. Usually I just smile and keep my mouth shut because sometimes, I don’t feel safe admitting that I disagree. We have an active KKK in my neighborhood who last burnt a cross in a neighbor’s yard about three years ago. It’s different in the city than it is out where I live. Huntsville is a fairly open-minded, anything-goes city and I’m glad to have a diverse political friend-group who gets along even if we don’t disagree. But if you get out into the country, disagreement is seen as a lot more of a problem – it’s an affront to God. Most people are polite about it. Some are not.
All I know is that election year is going to be very, very different from when I lived in Florida – the last three presidential elections, I’ve lived in a swing state and spent all night glued to the television as county-by-county came in. Here, the state’s color is a foregone conclusion. Won’t keep me from voting, of course. I cut my teeth waiting FOUR HOURS in Florida to vote amidst voting fraud, pressure from local and political clout, and lines that stretched around the block. Ain’t nothing going to keep me from demonstrating my rights.
Ain’t nothing going to stop me from getting my driver’s license changed, but I’m going to be holding my breath the whole time. And no, I won’t be getting a gun permit.