Hey yall! I’m your host for the Red Strings & Maroons podcast. Just wanted to tell yall a little bit about myself and the framing for the podcast.
I started to think about firearms and self defense back in 2013 after a jarring armed encounter. I was driving down a narrow Appalachian roadway and had someone riding my bumper really close, which is pretty common. Tourists suck and are always trying to get to a red light faster than everyone else. So I break checked that asshole to have them to back off. That sent the man behind me into an absolute fury. He started swerving and driving erratically, and when I looked into my rear view I could see him yelling and banging his fist on the steering wheel. This dude was truly losing his shit. This continued for a few miles and I began to think I would need to figure out how to get away when we came to a stop up the road. Break checking was a bad idea and now I was going to have to deal with someones road rage. That’s when I looked back again and saw the man with a revolver out, pointing it at my vehicle. There were some other cars behind us at that point and he possibly rethought shooting at me while we were both moving and in plain view of other people. At this point I’m in the middle of an adrenaline dump and just reacting to stimuli, conscious thought really isn’t guiding my actions anymore. I have no understanding of situational awareness and no clear plan on how to escape or defend myself.
The road opens to two lanes and with it an opportunity to take a sharp left onto a side road. I quickly take the turn thinking he wouldn’t have the time to make such a drastic adjustment from the second lane. I was right, but as he passed he screamed out his window, “I’m coming back to fucking kill you!” As I made it to the intersection just a block up the road, I see homeboy fucking gunning it back towards me as fast as his truck could accelerate. I blow through the intersection and try to find a spot where I wasn’t alone. Unfortunately the road I was blazing down turned into was a dead end to a parking lot next to a community park. The park had two people in it and they were well in the distance. Next I did some really stupid shit. I parked, got out of the car, turned my back to the threat, and knocked on the door of the business connected to the parking lot. No answer, I didn’t know what to do next and just froze. With my mind in a panic I was incapable of conjuring up another option. I didn’t think to call anyone, didn’t think about were I could run or escape routes, didn’t even think to stay in my car – the only barrier between myself and the gunman and the most effective conduit to put distance between myself and the threat. I felt completely hopeless and the truth is that I was. If that guy wanted to follow through and to drive up to shoot me, I don’t believe I would have acted in a manner decisive enough to give myself a good chance at living. Fight, Flight, or Freeze – having exhausted my flight options, my body and mind had chosen to freeze up as the threat persisted. Overwhelmed, I just stood outside with a pocket knife in hand, staring at the guys truck wondering what will come next.
Fortunately for me the guy idled his car up the road for about 5 minutes with his window lowered, just staring me down. I don’t know what kept him from following through, maybe it was the two people in the park off in the distance. I’ll never know. He turned around and drove away in his red truck. I never saw him again. In the midst of all this adrenaline and panic I misplaced my car keys and now I was stranded out there. I gathered myself and looked for the keys so I could get the fuck out of there, but to no avail. I had no idea where I put them and couldn’t backtrack my actions because I was acting unconsciously. My partner came with a spare key, it took them nearly 30 minuets to get to me. In that thirty minute time span I came to terms with the reality that I could have died and was disgusted with how helpless I felt. The need for self defense became a reality to me for the first time in my life.
Fast forward some years. I had moved into a much more reactionary area in rural NC that is a bit of a hotbed of white-nationalist and racist confederate organizing. I secured a job at a place where you had to overcome the flight-freeze response to keep others safe in dangerous situations, and had gotten pretty good at it. I started anti-racist and anti-fascist organizing and developed my own understanding of the world close to strains in the anarchist milieu. After some actions and a garbage news documentary by Vice on an anti-klan rally I had organized in a town that hadn’t seen a demonstration in decades (though they had cross burnings, which is what we were out there to oppose), I was doxxed and sent a good deal of death threats. Some focused their threats on my family, others my non-binary gender, still others targeted my homestead animals. Some of them messaged my FB to remind me of, “what happens to commies in North Carolina,” alluding to the Greensboro Massacre in 1979. The doxx itself came from an armed white nationalist milita with some members close by. Some of the folks that in-boxed me were not associated with any particular group just fucking shitty neighbors who literally lived up the road. In there mind I was a “transgender” “beta-male” “commie” who deserved to be shot and hanged. Needless to say, I was hypervigilant from that point forward. I am a queer, antifascist, in the most openly racist area I have ever lived in. I had few solid relationships with folks in my immediate area to lean on and I was without a network of folks physically close enough to assist me and my family if I needed it. On my own basically, and in a sense the situation much the same as it was back in 2013.
This time was different though – I was familiar with self defense, adequetly trained, and put a lot of thought into firearms. I’d learned some medic basics associated with gunshot and stab wounds. I had learned about situational awareness and familiarized myself with NC’s self defense laws. I could reliably hit what I was aiming at under pressure and learned what was a hard cover and what was just concealing my body. I hardened my house, set up preventative measures and early alarms, had an escape route and discussed it with my family. I was prepared, and this time if the adrenaline dump came I knew that my training would enable me to fight back if I had no other option. My mind was resolved, and had been for quite some time before my doxxing, that if they wanted to harm me, my family, or for that matter my broader community, that they would have to overcome a well prepared person. I’m not a soft target anymore.
Since then I’ve gotten into competition shooting and have increased my skills and confidence dramatically. I’ve taken up MMA training and continue to use deescalation skills on a nearly daily basis. I got a crew of people who are my support network. We’ve held several firearm safety and handling workshops and about as many range days to teach folks with live fire. I open carried in Charlottesville, VA during Unite the Right, on the side of antifascists of course. I’ve been requested to help with families who had their neighbors threaten to kill them because they were immigrants. Been requested to run security during demos and protests. I’ve worked to transmit the skills I’ve been growing in to the people around me and tried to prioritize the most vulnerable among us, especially those that don’t have a choice like I did. I had a deep desire to equip folks not to have to feel like I had in 2013. I want folks to have the capability and confidence to defend themselves and their communities from oppression when it strikes against us. That is the major motivation for this podcast.
Gun culture in America is imbued with all the reactionary shit you can think of. The world of unarmed self defense is much the same, but to a lesser degree, at least in my experience. It makes it inaccessible for a lot of folks, and understandably so. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a multitude of slurs said aloud, along with a slew of other abhorrent shit while training, shooting at competitions, or shopping in a gun store. The threats to collective liberation don’t see you or I in the struggle as full humans and constantly normalize fantasies of killing us when the social conditions are ripe for slaughter. Those people own American gun culture. This podcast is an attempt to reclaim community defense and self defense within the broader Left. We need to translate the useful skills in the gun community and throw out the rest. We deserve to live, to fight, and not to be made into helpless victims. Hopefully through this podcast that form of praxis will be revived and applied appropriately (defensively) in the modern context. We aren’t encouraging you to roll play, or to go out there in communicate threats. The opposite. Most folks out there have a higher skill level, deeper history with firearms, longer engagement with the idea of lethal force, and more willingness to escalate trivial immaterial shit to a level you arn’t (and shouldn’t be for that matter). We need principled and purposeful engagement with firearms, that seeks only to preserve life – not hot head adventurists looking for a thrill or hard optics while putting everyone else at risk.
So with that, I’m hoping to take yall along with me as I develop skills and knowledge. I’m no expert, but that’s the asset here. I ask the same questions you would and tap into the knowledge of people who know better than myself so we get the right answers. I hope my lack of expertise also motivates you in some way. You don’t have to be an “operator” and fucking slick to be able to defend yourself and your community. You can be a normal ass person who doesn’t have a lot of money, only has shit equipment, and little practice time. You can still get to a place of confidence of capability in that situation. It just takes more time and patience. That’s certainly been my journey and I’m hoping to bring yall with me as I move forward.
Charlottesville, VA, August 12, 2017