When I was ten years old I got to visit Germany with my little brother. It was a huge deal. We flew by ourselves. Got dropped off by Mom and Dad, got picked up my Oma and Opa.
I was young so I don’t remember everything about the trip but there are some things that remain indelibly marked in my memory about it:
We had American 1970’s haircuts. Partridge family feathered long boy’s hair. The German kids laughed at us and asked my Oma if we were girls. Our hair got cut that day. We wept and called our mom and cried into the phone.
We had spending money, and almost all of it was spent on plastic Smurf toys which were a big deal back home. We could buy Smurfs (calls Schlumpfs in Germany) that nobody could buy in the states. We returned heroes.
One day, on an outing we bought water pistols. We filled them up in a fountain and started running around squirting each other while my Grandparents shopped. My Opa came out from a store, and saw us running around pointing squirt guns at each other and went white.
He walked over and slapped the gun out of my hand. My grandfather was a kind man but he had a booming voice and he looked just like my dad. We didn’t know him very well because he lived very far away, so in the moment he was terrifying to us.
“Never point a gun at someone else.” He said to us. “Ever.”
“But Opa, they’re just squirt guns.” we told him.
“I don’t care if they are drawings of guns on paper. You never EVER point a gun at someone else.” He was beyond angry. He was shaken. He took our squirt guns, threw them in the trash and walked away from us.
Our Grandmother did her best to reassure us that Opa was not angry with us. He just didn’t like guns. He fought in the war and lost his half-brother in it. No guns were his rule. Never guns.
When I got older I would learn and understand that my Grandparents watched the rise of Hitler. Watched as he and his party invaded their country, divided their people, and drafted their young into the war. My grandfather was drafted into that war against his will at gunpoint and he carried the horrors of it to his grave.
My grandmother still has a car parked outside her apartment at the age of 92 despite the fact that she probably shouldn’t be driving. And I asked her once why she still needed it and paid for parking.
“You never know when you’ll have to go.” She said. I laughed and assured her that that could never happen here in America. Not now.
“That’s what we said” was her response to me.
This website is supposed to be a place to come to escape. To forget your troubles and laugh for a little bit. But my father constantly reminds me that the biggest part of my job is making people think. So today, I’m sorry but I’m going to ask you to think a little bit.
Because for the first time in forever, I’m started to get scared.
Because my grandmother was right. And my grandfather was right. No guns. Never guns. And it could happen in America. Right now.
I’m starting to believe it could absolutely happen here.