Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Face in the Crowd

I selected him at random out of a crowd at the rally numbering about a thousand, according to the head counters, though the crowd seemed larger than that to me. He was, I would guess, about 50+ years, dressed for warmth, as was most of the crowd on this cold mid-January day. We were slightly pressed together, people bustling and talking on all sides of us. The crowd stretched the entire length of the Capital building and was deep enough so that those on the edge spilled across the driveway and parking lot, some standing on the grass on the North side of the Capital. As most people who have over the years participated in rallies well know, this is the cold side of the grounds. For present purposes, we’ll call him Mr. Easton, the town he hailed from. I purposely did not ask him his name, neither did I identify myself as a political writer. If you want a canned response from a member of a crowd at a rally – any rally – you have only to identify yourself as a media person. I had not intended to report on the rally and brought with me no recording device. The interview below is a fresh and faithful recollection of our conversation.

Q: What brought you here?

A: The rally. (Try a less dumb question, Don.)

Q: Did you travel a long way?

A: From Easton, a little far out. It’s country out there, the backwoods, not all that many people where I live.

Q: Did you come with anyone?

A: No, just myself.

Q: How’d you hear about the rally?

A: I saw a story in the newspaper.

Q: Are you affiliated with one of the groups?

A: No.

Q: I know Easton. Pretty out there. (He nods, taking my measure. I lived for a bit in Redding.  Went to school in Danbury, lived in Bethel. Maybe I wasn’t a snoop after all. He began to relax.) You own a gun?

A: A rifle. Have to. I bought it after those murders in Cheshire. We live so deep in the woods it would take forever for the police to respond, if anything happened. That woke me up (the Cheshire murders.) You have to depend on yourself.

Q: Yeah, it was pretty awful. You probably had a gun as a kid.

A: They came in, beat him over the head with a bat, raped his wife, his daughter, set their house on fire, murdered everyone but the doctor… I forgot his name.

Q: Petit. (He nodded. There was a rustling at the microphones. The event was beginning.)

A: When I was a kid, I had a bolt action 22. Nothing after that until Cheshire.

Q: What do you have now?

A: (Uneasily) Semi-automatic.

Q: That’ll do it.

Before the first speaker mounted the rostrum, Mr. Easton said hurriedly he was not against rational gun controls. But unless the state was prepared to put a policeman at the end of his driveway, he needed his rifle.
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