The Common Good
July 2004

Excess Baggage

by Ed Spivey Jr. | July 2004

Being a resident of our country'

Being a resident of our country's last colony, Washington, D.C. ("Doesn't Count"), it's hard to approach this political season with anything but a jaded, albeit cynical, pessimism. Like most Iraqis, I am waiting for self-rule to be established in my hometown, and to experience "democracy," this new thing I keep hearing about where citizens have, like, a vote.

Fortunately, there are other benefits to living in the nation's capital, although I can't think of any right now because I'm too busy not drinking the water, which you shouldn't, on account of the lead, which there's too much of. (Of all the things I've taught my children, it's irony that I'm most proud of. For example, my youngest just came home from Central America, and when she got back to D.C. I had to warn her not to drink the water here.)

To compensate for an absence of meaningful political participation, I have for years taken an interest in the congressional district of my youth in Indiana (motto: One Man, One Gun). I watch with jealousy as voters in my former district, after first receiving instructions from the Republican Party, exercise their right to vote. Hoosiers, as they are called - there's a story to that name, but it's really boring - are a devoutly conservative lot who, for example, believe the only foreign aid we give should be shipments of bootstraps so recipients can...well, you know.

The 8th District of Indiana, where I spent my formative years, is currently represented by Rep. John Hostettler, a fine Republican who was recently detained at an airport. Details are sketchy, so I'm not sure whether it was his laptop computer, his cell phone, or the loaded 9 mm semiautomatic handgun in his briefcase that caused concern among the security personnel.

In fairness to the congressman, who has a license to carry a concealed weapon, he had just come back from a visit with constituents in his district, or, as Washington insiders privately refer to it, "in-country," a frightening place populated by voters who foolishly make up their minds without first consulting a lobbyist.

Hostettler was cited on a misdemeanor charge of carrying a concealed deadly weapon. (Is it just me, or does the phrase "concealed deadly weapon" seem like an odd fit with the word "misdemeanor"?)

But let's not jump to conclusions. Rep. Hostettler might have stopped at a firing range on the way to the airport and, instead of tossing the gun into his car's back seat where it would be safe, perhaps he put it in his briefcase instead. Or maybe he felt that, in a time of increased citizen readiness against terror, he could provide back-up while air marshals subdued a suspicious elderly woman. (You can hide a lot of stuff in orthopedic shoes.)

I tried to find out the real story, and left several messages with the congressman's communications director in Washington, but he hasn't called back. Without confirmation, we just don't know why the congressman was carrying that gun. Was it just an honest mistake that airport security personnel are still chuckling over? (You know what a great sense of humor those folks have.) Or was the congressman planning to rob a liquor store? Without official clarification this could be one of those stories the liberal media blow way out of proportion.

To be fair, the congressman is an avid sportsman, so it does make some sense for him to carry a pistol when he travels. After all, popping rabbits from the tarmac would really help pass the time when your plane is in line for takeoff. But as I said, his media guy hasn't called back and I just left another message, so I guess we'll never know if Rep. Hostettler is, in fact, a law-abiding man who is simply exercising his Second Amendment right to bear arms in a "well regulated militia," which is the part the gun lobby forgets to mention, because it UNDERMINES ITS ENTIRE POSITION!

Um, sorry.

Anyway, what we do know is that the congressman is from the same state as Dan Quayle, but I doubt there's any similarity. After all, I know Dan Quayle. I've made fun of him. And John Hostettler is no Dan Quayle.

TUM DE DUM...sigh. (Yes, I know the Dan Quayle thing was lame, but I'm just killing time here until the....Wait! He's on the line! Uh huh. Yep. Sounds reasonable. Thanks for calling.)

Okay, so Michael Jahr, communications director for Rep. Hostettler, confirmed that the gun was loaded, but, he pointed out, there was no bullet in the chamber.

Whew! I just knew there was nothing to the story. Just another congressman "taking care of business" in a scary world.

Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners.

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