I admit it.. I love Westerns. The classics channels have my number. When you carry the law on your hip, drama is liable to break out at any moment. For a family show, Bonanza sure stacked 'em up. For dramatic purposes and moral edification, the Western is one of the finest genres, right up there with medieval-ish science fiction-ish power-drama. If our love of drama (like our experience of dreams, in part) is about social play and modelling, focused on training to face tough choices that come up rarely in real life, but have extraordinary consequences when they do, the payoff from Westerns is obvious.
But watching is one thing. Being in the middle of it is something else. The point of our communal "real" life, politics, law, etc., as opposed to our dramatic alter-lives, is to make horrible choices, compelling a they are dramatically, as rare as possible, not more common. I get it that you as a gun-toting open-carry-ist are the last hero standing between my precious bodily fluids and that cold-blooded robber. Or worse yet, a Hillar-ized jack-booted federal agent. But the reality is quite different.
The reality is that guns make us less safe, not more. The police are going into conniptions about facing an ever increasing tide of guns. They don't want the "help" from all those open-carry-ists. The Republican convention is a no-gun zone. Why? Not because crime won't happen. It is because guns are dangerous to everyone around them, even to the very well-trained. Western towns set up gun controls as soon as they could- as soon as the law became stronger than the outlaws. Why? Because guns are unsafe, and if everyone has one, someone with less training and dedication to the constitution than the dedicated, well-trained, and articulate gun nut is going to come stumbling out of a saloon and shoot up the town for whatever purpose, or none. Look at Afghanistan, a country awash with guns, and a sort of contemporary wild west. Is that a safer place to live? A better place to live?
Unfortunately, addressing the fantasy life of gun nuts is easier said than done. Apparently statistics and reason doesn't make you stop wanting to buy, clean, stroke, and carry your gun around. And this fantasy extends to insurrection and terrorism. A blog I follow regularly issues threats, both veiled and explicit, against the "gun-grabbers". Unique among grievances in our country, the gun nuts think the very power they are guarding so zealously is the means of its and their defense, leading naturally to revolutionary rhetoric- the kind of thing that would be unconscionable in any other community or venue:
"Yea, Hopkins just went from being a stooge to being an enemy. Understand, Hopkins, that universal background checks will bring out the guns, and not in a good way, if you know what I mean. That is a line that cannot be crossed by anyone. It won’t happen, and your willing adultery with the Bloomberg position is most disappointing."
"Finally, it gives me amusement and pleasure to point out the obvious. You can never effect this outcome because we have the guns. Understand? You can’t take them from us because you eschew them and we don’t. What? You didn’t really think we’d give them up, did you? And you didn’t really think those cops would want to be gunned down as they try to confiscate weapons, did you?"
"God grants me the right (and even duty) to go armed and conduct myself in a manner consistent with self defense. Not you, and not the constitution, and not black robed tyrants. That means that whatever the outcome of this “day in court” to which you refer, the right to self defense is still present because God said so."
"But it’s not over with. Know who your local police are. Make sure to let them know in no uncertain terms, without them knowing who you are, that it is all just beginning. Make your points in the shadows, not in the light of day. Make it clear to them that you will not tolerate infringements on your God-given rights. ... Make your points until the police no longer want to wage war on otherwise peaceable citizens. Make your points in the shadows. That’s how this should go down. Do you understand?"
And this is not to mention Donald Trump's recent casual incitement of the assassination of his opponent.
So we are faced with a heady macho-psycho-Freudian-theological brew of perceived potency, with strong ties to American history and heritage, but also to much more deeply seated emotional issues. Other countries have been able to lower the temperature around guns. Why not us?
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