A World Disappeared . . .
I’ve gotten to a point in recent years, where I can finally speak with some degree of authority on the subject of growing old. As my dear old da said so many times in his own life . . . “Old age—it ain’t for sissies.” He was right. So, to a certain extent papa prepared me for the experience. What I really wasn’t expecting however, was the reality that the future, and with it, the rapidly approaching end of life, is not the scariest thing.
The things that bring me the largest number of sleepless night and multi-colored nightmares, is not the uncertain (or should I say certain) future. What causes the most psychological harm is the past.
Not once in my years past sixty, have I awoken in a cold sweat over a dream involving my own death, or funeral. Truly, nothing could be much further from my mind. What has kept me awake however, on many a night, is the reliving of all the deaths and funerals of loved-ones long since gone.
Not just once, but over, and over, and over again.
There is a certain nostalgia in the heart of man—a homesickness, for what has come and gone, and can never come again. Not in this life, anyhow. There is an essential longing in the heart for those people, places, and things that made up a man’s life, and most especially his childhood.
Think of the totality of a man’s life if you will, as a house made of bricks. Each of those bricks is a memory of some sort. Some will be little bricks, and some—much, much bigger. Some of those bricks, perhaps a great number of them, are going to be bricks of expectation. That is to say, that when we were young, we had an expectation that certain things were going to be a certain way. We also probably never imagined that any of them was going to change very much. Certainly not the sea-change of the past fifty years.
Just some examples . . .
Way back in the mists of time, everybody just knew, on a very fundamental and instinctual level, that marriage was between a man and a woman. We knew there were “gay” people, but they certainly hadn’t yet gone mainstream. If someone had actually tried to explain to a classroom full of kids, how “trans-gendered” worked, they probably would have been looked at like they just stepped off a space-ship.
Now please don’t get me wrong here and send me hate mail. I am not necessarily saying that this or that particular thing was better in the “good” old-days. An awful lot of fine folks were denied rights and made outcasts and even outlaws because of some pretty draconian and unfair laws and social mores. There were laws back then too, as obscenely insane as it seems today, that outlawed interracial marriage.
Schools and public places were segregated.
I’m not defending that. Not in the slightest. All of that was just flat-out wrong. I’m just saying that it was a cultural expectation—way back when.
Most everyone back then was a Christian. Not everyone went to Church on Sundays, but those that did, overwhelmingly went to Christian Churches. Old-fashioned chapels with crosses on the roof. I don’t believe I could have probably found three people in my high school who would have been able to define what a Muslim was. It was a nearly one-hundred percent Christian nation. Not much like that anymore. Church attendance has been declining for decades, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to slow much anytime soon.
Atheists and Anti-theists are all the rage now days.
Sports were pretty pure back then. There were aberrations, of course. The turn of the century Black Sox scandal and later on Pete Rose comes immediately to mind. But by and large it was pure. Routine craziness, both on and off the field, had not yet become a staple of American sports. Most pros were in it for the love of the sport, and for the fame. The limelight. No one did it much for the money. Multi-millionaire rock-star sports hero gods hadn’t quite been invented yet. The fact that they would one day exist wasn’t even on anyone’s radar.
Up until the late nineteen-sixties, bleacher seats at Tiger Stadium down on Michigan and Trumball still went for two bucks, and hot-dogs were fifty cents.
But enough on that. That’s a subject for another day.
Western dramas ruled the airwaves. All week long and twice that amount on the weekends. Bonanza, Sugarfoot, The Rebel, Shenandoah, The Virginian, Have Gun Will Travel, and all the mythic titles from the storied early days of television. And they all had one thing in common.
All the good guys had guns.
Yep—the heroes we grew up with all carried guns. And they used them too—over and over, and over again. To kill bad-guys. To defend the weak and defenseless. To fight for right. To prevail over tough odds. It was engrained in us. It was who we were. Dads bought rifles and shotguns for their sons for Christmas. Taught them how to use them too. Took their kids hunting, and target shooting. The Boy Scouts, and the Girl Scouts too, had shooting ranges and rifle practice. They even gave out merit-badges for marksmanship. Guns were the tools of righteous men.
Yeah, the baddies had them too.
But the bad guys never won.
Evil never prevailed.
That’s what changed—between then and now.
Now the bad guys win—all the time.
Society changed. The culture changed. Fathers either stepped back in importance in American families, or went away all together. Values somehow got flipped—with evil being called good—and good called evil.
Everything fell apart, somewhere between a Southeast Asian rice paddy and the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court. Somewhere in there, our society, and our culture . . . just fell apart.
And it’s still falling.
And it’s really unlikely to stop.
Today there are no expectations, right or wrong.
No expectations at all—except perhaps the expectation of more death, more misery, more sadness, and of course—a lot more hopelessness.
I don’t know what went wrong. Decades of shrinks and pundits haven’t quite come up with any sensible answers either. But one thing I do know, is that the old men, the old times, and the old ways are getting the blame—rightly or wrongly.
And guns—those old time tools of old time good guys—have become the symbol of the illness and the malaise.
And you know what?
I don’t think they are to blame.
I don’t think they are the problem.
And I don’t think getting rid of them—anymore than getting rid of all the good old people—is the answer.
Our disease is deeper than that. The wounds of the past fifty plus years have been to our souls.
And souls take a long time to heal—if ever.
I think it’s about over.
It’s no Country for old men anymore.
It’s a rough time for old men.
And it’s a rough time for good men.
Largely—the world of expectations has disappeared.
And it breaks my heart to say it. But it’s gone forever. It’s not coming back.
It’s pretty much over—the way I see it.
I asked a question of my readers a few days ago. I asked what you thought about guns. I honestly didn’t get near as many responses as I had hoped I would. I think to a certain extent, folks are just getting tired of hearing about and thinking about guns, and shootings, and wars, and rumors of wars, and all the other heart-breaking news that bombards us almost every day.
I think we’ve pretty much tuned out—and checked out.
But I will tell you this.
Overwhelmingly, the responses I received were in favor of the second amendment and the private ownership of guns, and the right to keep and bear arms.
Overwhelmingly, citizens of this late great country still see firearms in the hands of private citizens as a positive thing. They still see the private citizen, the true militia of this nation—as good guys.
And overwhelmingly, my readers still see the problems we face today, largely as Executive Vice President of The National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre see them, when he said, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun—is a good guy with a gun.”
It may be sad—but the statement is true.
And all the good intentions and wishful thinking in the world won’t make it untrue.
In that, in that one small way, nothing has much changed in America, or indeed the world—since the days of Paladin and Matt Dillion.
Is America safer today with around four hundred million privately owned firearms in the hands of private citizens? I’m not entirely sure. But I do subscribe to the notion that America wasn’t exactly designed to be safe.
America was designed to be free.
There is no safety but in freedom.
And there is no freedom without freemen.
So I take my stand in the great American gun debate.
I vote for freedom. I vote for freemen.
I stand with the good guys . . .
And their tools.
Thanks so much for reading my rant.
Be back in a few with a new installment of THE RECKONING.
. . . See you then.