Growing up, television was entertainment. I mean, it was there to keep the regular folk happy with wrestling matches, a few news shows, a couple of doctor shows and westerns.
Ah, westerns. Legendary cowboys in the frontier, totin' six guns and killing injuns. Or bad guys wearing black hats. Or Mexican banditos who had huge mustaches and wore bandoleers full of brass encased bullets who knew a surprising amount of English.
When it came to the television shows, there were at least fifty westerns, ranging from Disney's Davy Crockett (he died at the Alamo, killed by a legitimate Mexican army protecting its land) to stage coach guards to gamblers to adventurers, to killers for hire to lawmen to bounty hunters...the list goes on and on.
All these stories had someone protecting something with a fast gun and life or death situations...like in an ambush, or a bank robbery or water rights or cattle theft or preventing or causing a hanging.
I sincerely doubt that there were as many gunfights and/or hangings as occurred every week on television.
Matt Dillon kills someone every week on the main street of his town. The Rifleman had a special rifle that shot more rounds quickly because of a little latch on the trigger thing. Paladin was a gun for hire...for a thousand dollars, he'd kill anybody while spouting proverbs or Shakespeare and the occasional sonnet. Bounty hunters always brought miscreants in dead, not alive. Maverick won everybody's money and had a derringer hidden away so he had one shot to kill the person who wanted his money back. Sawed off shotguns, Steve McQueen. Buntline Special, an elongated barrel carried by Gene Barry portraying a cowboy who later became a sports writer in Chicago.
Everybody was packing and ready to kill.
We grew up feeding on this, like suckling babies. I guess it was all right because that was all there was to watch. Wrestling was fake, anyway. Doctor shows were on after bedtime.
So...my generation had guns in front of them constantly. We should have been crazed killers, shooting up schools and blasting from '57 Chevy windows at kids on the street playing hopscotch. We may have on rare occasions, but they never ever made the news.
But, perhaps Vietnam happened and killing was necessary for our boys' survival. Kill or be killed definitely puts a different light on the need for weapons.
Our generation is old now. We remember Woodstock, days of music and mud and good old groups where most of the members have passed on. We remember those television cowpokes fondly, but when we watch these programs now, we become aware of all the killing. Bad Indians and Mexicans and rustlers and those who would block the water from their neighbors.
We don't shoot much anymore.
No, we leave that to our kids who never had the exposure to televised make-believe killing that we did.
Somewhere along the line, what we witnessed and chose to forget leaked into the brains of our children. Maybe our memories were passed in vitro. Maybe the three wars that have happened since Vietnam finally got through to them and killing was necessary once more.
Perhaps the anger at not being privileged or being bullied or being looked down upon or being loners has turned our next generation into killers.
Maybe, just maybe, it is fear of being unimportant without a weapon of destruction that is behind it all.
I don't know. Maybe it is because guns still make people something important. Maybe it is because anybody can shoot a gun and kill or maim a living thing.
Just something I was thinking about this morning. Maybe you'd like to respond? Go ahead.
Muriel Bowser serves as Washington, DC’s seventh elected Mayor. Sworn in on January 2, 2015, she pledged to bring a fresh start to the District of Columbia, create pathways to the middle class for residents, and foster a culture of inclusion, transparency and action.
If the men can't or won't do it, as usual, it is up to a woman.