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Our ‘Wild West’ delusion is literally killing us

Tombstone. Great movie. Terrible role models

Tombstone. Great movie. Terrible role models.

Lone lawmen did not go into wild west towns, chase out the baddies, then restore law and order. That only happens in Hollywood movies. Many sheriffs who allegedly cleaned up towns were thugs themselves. This fantasy makes for great movies, but unfortunately the cowboy ethos is embedded in out national psyche as something to be emulated. Unforgiven is a great movie. However the hired killer player by Clint Eastwood was just as psycho, if not more so, than the corrupt sheriff. The Shootout at the OK Corral was basically extra-judicial murder which solved nothing and led to further murders. Wyatt Earp never smiled and liked to pistol-whip people. If he was in NYPD now, there would be protests against him. Do we really want cold-blooded killers as national role models? Because, deep in our national psyche, that’s pretty much what we got now.

If you haven’t already noticed, other countries are increasingly looking at the U.S. like we are all deranged because after yet another slaughter of innocents by a lunatic, all the usual arguments get trotted out, left and right howl at each other, and nothing changes. The U.S. is an extremely violent nation, both at home, and abroad. We routinely bomb other countries to make them safe for democracy (the planes doing the bombing are the equivalent of the lone sheriff going in to clean up the town) then wonder why they’re so pissed at us. Gee, I dunno, maybe if you blow up a hospital, refuse to apologize, then you shouldn’t be too surprised if the relatives and friends dead decide to kill us.

It’s time for America to grow up, stop playing cowboys, and figure out, for starters, what to do about the high levels of gun violence here. The first step is to have a serious, adult conversation about it. And then throw American Exceptionalism out the window. It’s way past its expiration date.

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