Sometimes a story is so bizarre you have make sure you’re not reading The Onion, the satirical newspaper that once convinced the Iranian news agency that Congress was selling corporate naming rights to the capitol dome. It’s a tricky world, and you have to check your sources to know whether to laugh or cry.
Case in point: The other day I was driving home listening to BBC World News. This is rarely a recipe for comedy. If it’s not all the shopping traffic reminding me of mounting credit card bills, it’s an Englishman recounting the “mounting atrocities” in a country I never learned existed. By the time I’m done with my commute, I’ve learned I’m too broke to do anything about problems I know nothing about.
Not the other day. The British announcer told the story of a woman in Argentina who was marrying the man who had murdered her twin sister two years ago. I immediately called my wife to Google the story on the BBC website to make sure this wasn’t a Monty Python skit meant to alleviate holiday stress. Blessedly, it was real. Even better, the bride-in-mourning was the kind of sexy one only sees in an American sitcom cast as the long-suffering wife of a fat man. And the murderer-turned-groom was decidedly not attractive, and not even in the way that is usually cast on TV as being married to a wife far hotter than is found in real life.
And you thought you were stressed about getting the family together at Christmas?
It’s too easy to focus on what is likely to cause the fights (“I can’t believe you voted for Obama again!” “You killed my daughter! You can’t marry my other daughter!!”) and too hard to hold onto what we have in common. I’m sorry. I’d love to include some examples of what extended families can cherish together, but I’m not coming up with anything other than staring lovingly at the children on Christmas morning while silently criticizing how they are being raised.
So far, the post-Newtown debate on gun safety has yet to dissolve in the acidic idiocy we know as Congress. In a proper exercise of non-statutory presidential authority, Barack Obama has essentially said “Let’s fix this,” and he put Joe Biden in charge of finding solutions. I don’t want to jinx this, but we (America, you and me, even that idiot you hate, your awful relatives, too) have alighted upon an untrammeled patch of common ground. As far as I can tell, Americans would rather work together to stop mass murders than fight amongst ourselves on cable news. This is not The Onion. I think this is real life.
In Texas, you won’t find a bigger defender of gun owners’ rights than Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson. When people say he’s always packing, it’s not because he likes to travel. And when there’s a public debate in Texas on gun safety, the media will largely ignore Gov. Rick Perry, who jogs with a laser-sighted pistol loaded with hollow point bullets, in favor of focusing on Patterson, the guy all the gun nuts in Texas listen to.
Only Nixon can go to China, so it makes sense that Patterson has an elegant solution to close the gun show loophole. You have to pass a background check to buy a gun at Wal-Mart, but gun shows are unregulated flea markets. Patterson’s side doesn’t want the government knowing who bought which guns, and my side doesn’t want criminals buying guns. Patterson’s idea is to pass a background check to get into a gun show. Then everybody at a gun show is eligible to buy a gun anonymously. Everyone’s happy.
“Just like when you go into a beer joint, they stamp your hand when you walk in and I can buy a beer if I want, but I don’t have to,” Patterson said.
Patterson solving the riddle of closing the gun show loophole is strange enough to be in The Onion, but it’s better than that. It might be the Christmas miracle we need to make progress on gun safety.