While working on Armed America I learned a lot about perception -- what we think of when we think of "us" and "them", and more specifically "not us". A reporter from Canada asked me if gun owners were normal people -- and I'd never thought of that before -- what's "normal"? Our perception of what normal is is something indelibly intertwined with who we are -- so asking "is someone normal" is asking "am I normal?" I realized something in the few seconds after that question was asked -- one of those thing is that I'm not normal. I don't have a dining room table. My mom thinks that's insane. I have a home theater where most people have a dining room. Periodically throughout the year, my mom will ask if I feel grown up enough yet to get a dining room table. Gun owners, I realized, in that moment, were probably more normal than I was. There are far too many rare subsets of "person" that I belong to to make me "normal" -- which is only to say that I'm probably not an adequate representation of "mainstream America" -- and what published author is? Already I've bubbled out of that norm.
I realized that in probably any single-interest group large enough you'll find some people who look like you, and some people who don't.
"Well," I said (to the reporter from Canada -- are you still with me?), "I don't suppose they're any more or less normal than most other groups of people who have only one thing in common ... like, people who own rocking chairs." I tried to think of the most "normal" thing I could think of that someone would own. A few months later, I found that line coming back to me in the still watches of the night more than anything else I'd said to any other reporter. People who own rocking chairs. So I started asking my friends, "do you own a rocking chair?" These answers fell into two categories, people who said either "yes" or "no" and people who launched into a 20 minute nostalgia hallucination about being rocked by their mothers or sitting on the front porch with grandma. The rocking chair seemed to have far more cultural cache than I'd ever suspected.
Now, tell me about the rocking chair in your life.