Thursday, June 13, 2019

Living On A Dangerous Edge

Maybe it was just a Southern thing, but when I was growing up most adults I knew held a certain awe for The Andy Griffith Show. For those who don't know, The Andy Griffith Show was a sitcom situated in the fictional North Carolina town of Mayberry that ran from 1960 to 1968. The central character was the county sheriff, named Andy Taylor, who each episode shared down home, commonsense wisdom as he managed the collection of harmless oddballs who were his friends and neighbors.

It was one of those shows that now would be called “family friendly” since there wasn't any foul language said, nothing in the way of sex was ever hinted, and had no scenes involving car chases or gun fights. In fact, the episodes usually contained a strong moral point about honesty, humility, compassion, patience, diligence, fidelity, and charity. The type of content that good, salt of the earth country life-loving folk use to eat up before they started worshiping the Orange Human Slug. You know, the slug who has had several marriages and multiple adulterous affairs, with one involving a porn star while his current wife was pregnant or had just given birth. To detail the slug's other character failings and abnormal behaviors is beyond the scope of this post.

Salt of the earth country life-loving folks still regularly watch the Andy Griffith reruns that persist down here in South Carolina almost tenuously as kudzu. The trouble though is that while these folks still admire the show, the principles Sheriff Taylor lived and shared on the show have been largely forgotten. Case in point was Sheriff Taylor's views on why he didn't carry a gun.

While a fictional character, Sheriff Taylor felt that if he carried a weapon the respect he received from other people most likely originated in the fear of what he could do with that weapon. A sentiment that once did have a basis in real life. Back in the 1980's I had a full-fledged gun-nut period where carrying a weapon for protection seemed like a good idea. No, I didn't live in a dangerous neighborhood nor did I carry around lots of money.

By that time popular culture had become flush with movies and television shows where the heroes regularly used weapons of many types to save the day. I admit comparing the action movie heroes of the 1980's with a sitcom sheriff from the 1960's is an apples and oranges situation, but the contrast between the two is important. All the big action movies characters solve their problems with the heavy use of firearms and lots of ammunition. If any of the other movie characters dare to mention diplomacy or even talking with the “enemy” they are portrayed as either evil sympathizers or hopelessly naive.Yes, the scenarios most action movies played with involved foreign armies or terrorist groups which logically required the use of military style weapons. The end result though was still the cultural acceptance of all problems can be resolved by the unlimited use of heavy weapons and unlimited ammunition.

The remarkable thing is that during the 1980's, I remember numerous people telling me I had a serious mental problem for wanting to buy one of those “Rambo guns.” I was repeatably told by hunters such assault weapons had no use outside of the military. The comparison one person used was that hunting with an assault weapon was like taking a sledgehammer to a fly. That if I absolutely had to have a something to shoot it was best just to purchase a simple bolt action deer rifle. But no, I had become hypnotized to the glamour of how assault weapons were presented in those movies. I wanted to save democracy from those damn commie bastards and to accomplish that task it was commonsense to purchase something designed for such extreme times.

Adding a touch of nuance to my gun-nut delusion, during those years I was serving in the active duty army as opposed to most of those wackos who somehow never found the local recruiter. Luckily, not long later I stumbled into scuba diving and got my certification and equipment paid for by selling my assault rifle and the semi-automatic pistol I had bought as well. It's funny now, but in the space of eighteen months I went from a delusional Rambo to a wannabe Jacque Cousteau. Hindsight being what it is in my book, I'm calling that one a win.

In my opinion a type of movie that is far worse than improbable action heroes saving democracy from nasty low-IQ commies are the revenge orientated vigilante motion pictures. The standard scenario for these films first had some normal, usually middle-class guy losing his family to a gang of thugs. The next act in the movie had the police unable or unwilling to go after the bad guys for lack of evidence or because of legal maneuvering by the defense lawyer. This then forces the main character to buy a gun and then seek revenge, which in the movie is portrayed as a form of justice. The final act of the movie has all the bad guys gruesomely killed by the main character who usually then disappears into background noise of society.

In my opinion such vigilante movies helped breed a misplaced idea that civilians should carry a weapon to protect themselves from the human sharks lurking in the shadows waiting for a chance to attack those they love. Yes, it's a long, clumsy jump from watching a crappy revenge movie to believing society is falling apart. But I've seen people make just that conclusion every time a shooting is hyped up on the nightly news.  Their immediate reaction is to say a "good guy" with a gun could have ended the tragedy before it happened. Their thinking based on the simplistic idea that proper training and years of experience, such as what police go through is overblown. And since the 1970's we've gone from a single gunman on a subway making the news to military-style assaults on elementary and high schools becoming almost commonplace. While "good guys" with guns have appeared on rare occasion, their success is more a factor luck. Sooner or later some armed idiot with good intentions is going to get more people killed trying to bring down the wacko shooting up a department store or school.

As you can probably guess for me the common factor in all this is not just the normalization of civilians owning the type of weapons that once didn't go beyond the police and military. It's the bizarre attitude that some people truly believe their safety in a supermarket or walking down a street can only be assured by them carrying a firearm. Such people do not just relish the idea of pulling out their high caliber toy and blowing away another human being, its become a status symbol. The weapon they carry signifies their place in society, not their education, accomplishments, or even money.  

Yes, there are plenty of dangerous places in this country. But the extent to which this sickness permeates the country has long since crossed the line of rationality and now firmly resides in the psychotic. For these people respect now come only from their ability to inflect carnage on other human beings.

It boggled the mind to see how far we've fallen from sanity when it comes to guns. No, I am not saying civilian ownership of pistols and non-military weapons should be banned. Such a proposal isn't workable and would just further polarize this country, maybe to the point the wackos would start their long promised “Second Amendment Remedies” for us liberals. On the other hand, a free and healthy society cannot function when it is based on fear. Sooner or later the lowbrow masses will want to use their weapons to correct what they perceive as the unfairness of society. 

With television and movies a hodgepodge of remakes and reboots, I cannot imagine anyone seriously attempting bringing back The Andy Griffith Show. The commonsense wisdom the fictional Sheriff Taylor displayed with his refusal to carry a weapon is like something from ancient times. Now we are left with this as our reality: 

We can only hope this sick era passes quickly.


MikeP said...

I've noticed and commented on the same thing. I watch a lot of westerns these days. Never cared for them as a kid, but I've caught up over the last few years with all the retro channels playing various shows. These were TV series popular during the 50s and 60s, a time when we had just fought a world war, when the Red menace was the big boogeyman. It's funny, these are shows popular with that demographic that waves the guns and the Bible all the time. And yet, those stories depict towns that don't allow guns and "bad guys" who refuse to obey the law. Stories where the hero goes for his gun only as a last resort. Stories where mob action by "good God-fearing folks" is shown without apology to be as bad as the evil they think they are standing against. And yet it seems nobody took those lessons away.

sage said...

Andy Griffin was a treasure. And I like that fact that his deputy Barney who had a gun, only had one bullet.

W. Hackwhacker said...

Another good "dropping," BB. Andy Griffith was a mensch. Early on, he played "Lonesome" Rhodes in "A Face in the Crowd," where he played a faux populist tv star, in a foreshadowing of the Fox business model. Later in life, he was a proud Democrat and made PSAs for the Affordable Care Act. The Andy Taylor role was about as close to Griffith in reality as it gets, I think.

Ranch Chimp said...

Hey Bum! I was watching The Andy Griffith Show just the other day, I still like the show, and it gives me a good laugh. The episode I was watching, was when citizens made a citizens arrest on Barney, and Barney ended up in jail {:-) Well, it was certainly an interesting read. I agree with you on the movies deal, it's almost like movies prepare us in thought, of what to expect in the future, at times. I don't have and carry what folks call "assault rifles" (even though to me, I just call them what they are, "semi- auto" rifles). I have a self defense series on my blog that also highlights guns on some posts ... which I slacked up posting in it, because of the massive amounts of shootings today, sad. I was out on a ranch of a friend a few weeks back, for his annual Memorial Day fish fry (about 100 miles from Dallas, he is a big gun collector, also formerly active heavy metal bass guitarist (band dissolved over legal/ financial disputes, copyright, etc). Many musicians I've known are pro- gun even. He has a home studio, with an array of guitars, from Firebirds to Les Pauls, Ibanez, etc ... so I love to play when I'm there. But also ... he has a custom built outdoor gun range on his property (really big), and alot of us, guys and gals, use it when we're at his place ... but it's all in fun, as sport, target type shooting, is all, and most of these folks are younger than me by years. Many of these folks are also libertarians, as far as political views, not Trump lovers, more like Ron Paul lovers. Most gun owners, don't wake up in the morning with the red- ass, and say "Ohhh well ... I'm pissed today ... think I'm gonna run down to the mall or school, and shoot a bunch of folks". You don't even need to be a hunter to enjoy target shooting as a fun sport, I enjoy it, I'm not thinking about shooting humans when I shoot targets, doesn't even cross my mind to be honest. Today, I believe in strict background checks and reform, just because of the shootings ... never worried about it before. All these MF's that can't control their bowels when they get the red- ass, and want to shoot up schools, malls, public squares, concert venues, etc ... are the ones that are f*cking up our gun rights in this country ... not liberals ... no one had any problems with guns years back ... until these folks started doing all these killings, that has spread as a sort of fad or pop- culture. Just yesterday, some young guy that was discharged from the Army, I think, here in Dallas, went downtown to the Federal building in downtown Dallas dressed up like Rambo, and started shooting. I'll shut up now, Thank You for the read.

Ranch Chimp said...

BTW, the friend and fellow musician I talk about above that owns the ranch, is NOT a country redneck either, he's a 40 year old business man, owns a company in Dallas (drives to Dallas daily, 100 miles one way) that brings in a few million dollars a year, and his home is nice, not a dump.

Pixel Peeper said...

Nobody wants to realize that the chances of you getting killed by a gun increase when you own a gun.

I have some friends in South Carolina that I suspect have not just "a few" guns, but a whole arsenal. They're probably waiting for the apocalypse...

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