NY Times Sad That Iowa Town Too 'Nice' to Lecture NRA Chairman in Their Midst

In a long article in the New York Times Sunday Styles, “Civility and Culture Wars In an Iowa Gun Town – When neighbors disagree but a major voice remains silent.” contributor Jacqui Shine focused on “Pete Brownell, a well-known and well-liked local philanthropist....He is also the third-generation C.E.O. of Brownells, a major firearms company whose headquarters are here, which calls itself the country’s 'leading supplier of firearm accessories, gun parts, and gunsmithing tools.'"

Shine left big hints throughout the article that Iowans are just too nice to properly confront and hector the NRA board chairman in their midst. This was the online headline: “How Civil Must America Be?”

He is also chairman of the board of the National Rifle Association, which surely explained Shine's story:

But since the mass shooting in Las Vegas last October, Mr. Brownell has become a divisive figure in town, to nearly everyone’s reluctance. The culture wars here -- and all of the culture wars converge right here -- may be about guns, or about religion, or they might be about money. But they may really be about manners.

The first thing most everyone says is that the Brownells are good, generous people. Their children all go to school together. Mr. Brownell and Ms. Redmond care very much about making Grinnell a good place to live for everyone.

....

But over the last few years, the gun company in the middle of everything here became harder to ignore. In December 2012, The Los Angeles Times reported that Brownells sold several years’ worth of high-capacity ammunition magazines in the 72 hours after the mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. (There have been more than 100 F.B.I.-designated active shooter incidents since.)

Shine was concerned that Brownell won’t come out to be lectured by his neighbors on guns:

The fracas also underscored the fact that no one seemed to have talked to Mr. Brownell about any of it directly....

....

Mr. Dobe characterized their message this way: “Now that you’re the president of the N.R.A., we think you kind of owe us a conversation.”

Again, Mr. Brownell did not answer. “Pete Brownell did not respond as a neighbor,” said Kesho Scott, an associate professor of sociology and American studies at Grinnell....

Friends of the Brownells, including the Grinnell city manager, Russ Behrens, say that neighborliness is a two-way street. Members of his family had seen the Facebook group’s angry, frustrated posts and comments, a couple of which suggested confronting Mr. Brownell with a vigil at his home.

....

His public remarks have been unsurprising in the national conversation, but also strike some as unneighborly. He echoes the N.R.A.’s talking points on the Second Amendment, repeating that people he characterizes as “anti-American” are trying to take away guns, which are our national heritage.

Shine really wanted Brownell to come out of his shell to hear some left-wing anti-gun lectures, or at least let everyone know he’s not really as evil as he seems in soundbites:

While he has not accepted -- or rejected -- invitations to speak with his neighbors, Mr. Brownell has, in his public role, spoken about them. Many of his remarks to N.R.A. members have traded on stereotypes about liberals. To the considerable anger of these neighbors, he positioned himself as the bemused and indulgent teacher of big-city professor types.

....

Ms. Miller, too, likes the Brownells. She also says their family’s comfort comes at the expense of her family’s own. In November 1991, her mother, Ann Rhodes, was a vice president at the University of Iowa when a physics graduate student shot and killed three department faculty members and a postdoctoral researcher and injured two administrators in another building, before killing himself....

....

“I’m going to inherit my family’s farm,” she said. “But if my family’s farm was responsible for the deaths of thousands of people every year, I think I would find a different livelihood.”

Shine wrapped up by suggesting Midwestern manners were a problem. Apparently Iowans should act more like Antifa? Anyway, she continued:

“Iowa nice” could be the solution or the problem. The social contracts of small-town life seem rather less sturdy these days. No amount of moral clarity or urgency has made it possible to overcome the hurdle of getting people “on all sides” to talk to one another, even as they talk to one another about dozens of other things every day.

....

Our cultural ideas about civility and respect incline his neighbors to accept his silence. While many debate their right to carry big guns or their complicity in the gun epidemic, Mr. Brownell is, it seems, the only one who does not need to answer.

Guns Protesters Antifa New York Times Iowa NRA
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