America Light: Wild West vs. Mild West

After the Orlando massacre.

Trump did not wait, he threw the first punch, Obama and Hillary refusing to get involved in the brawl. It might have been a scene from a rather modern Western, in a saloon, say, where they’ve gathered to choose the sheriff. It’s the presidential elections, you say? Hard to tell the difference, at times.

In any case, I too am not bound by the rules of piety, like Trump, being an Injun and a sit-down comedian. One stray American of Afghan parentage and an interesting psychopathology goes on a rampage and kills nearly fifty people in the most powerful, if not the most civilised country in the world. The police go in after three hours, if I’ve understood correctly, and shoot the man. That’s when the people inside our imaginary ‘saloon’ start talking about lynchin’ a certain class and category of people while the mourners outside, led by the county’s first female minister, pray for stricter gun laws.

Something on those lines and no, I’m not laughing. Nor should you.

Knowing less than even Borat or Azamat Bagatov about the fabled country, I am trying to understand how any nation or government can regularly allow psychopaths armed to the teeth to storm a venue, any venue from Columbine to Pulse and slaughter innocents, the only variable being the number of the dead and the wounded as in the duck shoots of the sahibs in colonial India – that strong enough for ya? Well, here’s another: they should permanently close down and board up the White House and the Pentagon and the Congress too, for that matter, for everybody’s joint inability to stop such mayhem on a recurring basis – I’d have thought. They’d have done something even in the Stone Age, I’m sure, ask the Flintstones. Or go back to the Mesozoic Era and ask the Dinos. Who lets potential madmen acquire semi-automatic firearms, huh? When will the National Rifle Association wake up to the fact that they are not the National Semi-Automatic Association? When will both sides in this unearthly debate stop giving their semi-automatic responses to this by now semi-automatic slaughter?

God knows, I am a child of the sixties who grew up in the already fading glory of the Western comics: Billy the Kid and Wild Bill Hickok; Rawhide Kid and Lone Ranger; Roy Rogers and the Kid Colt Outlaw. We used to play cowboy games in New Alipur, Kolkata, with life-like plastic imitations of six-guns and Winchester repeaters. Naturally there were no Indians in our games, would have been silly. We preferred the saloons where the cowboys did all the shooting, mostly at each other. The limp but tense hand of the gunfighter hovering above the holster while his stetsoned shadow fell in an inky blotch across the pulpy page – it was the moment for us to cry: “Draw!” And Trump drew.

Certain basic considerations: (1) a gun is an instrument to make a hole in an animal or a human being; (2) certain kinds of holes in human beings usually prove fatal; (3) all scientific evidence shows that while weapons of slaughter have got better and better, human beings have remained as vulnerable as on the day of Creation e.g. the American President’s limousine is fully armoured, but not the American President; (4) one man, one vote is democracy, but is one man, one gun democracy too? (5) Don’t even need the sleek and modern semi-automatics, just imagine a Western saloon in which every cowboy is carrying an old-fashioned kalashnikov recognisable by every child soldier in Rwanda – okay, we’ll settle for Desperado (1995) with Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek in the lead roles, in which case please remember that blood is not ketchup and never was nor shall be; (6) as regards the killers and the cops/upright citizens, the bad ’uns and the good ’uns, will this unofficial and undeclared arms race between the two continue till the world runs out of bullets and/or human beings, or is it time for us to call for retail as well as wholesale disarmament together with a general amnesty for humankind? What about all of us going back to the Golden Age of the Western comic and letting the outlaws as well as the sheriffs carry the same kind of manageable weapons which don’t leave half the extras on the set bleeding on the floor? (7) The best safety catch for a gun is a gun licence and a gun licence is usually harder to buy than a gun, at least in the country that I come from – unless you are in Donald Trump’s country, and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s, and Barack Obama’s, where you can buy handguns online and let your five-year-old bang away with ’em at the nearest shooting range, I’ve been told, but remember, they won’t let you take it into the cabin with you.

If you want to enjoy the American way of life – less cordite but full taste – did you know that you can have it with only chapajeros and a lasso but without the gun? Just follow the example of the best-known Western hero of all time, without a feature film to his name: the Marlboro Man! Holy smoke, no gun? Yes, smoking can kill you too, but it might take a bit longer.

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