Thursday, January 26, 2006

Old-West Etiquette and the Golden Rule

Here are a couple of observations on what ails us as a society -- and what we can do about it:

In the Old West, people were polite...or else.

I come, of course, from the New West. Full of rude and dirty Eastern carpetbaggers who move into your neighborhood and then make you sell your horses so they won't be bothered by the flies they could have avoided by simply having moved somewhere else. These people brought their homicidal driving habits, their foul air and their crime with them. What have they given back except for horseless cities, urban sprawl and an NFL team that couldn't beat the Little Sisters of the Poor?

The one thing that astonishes me about commentary threads on blogs is how friggin' rude people are. Things have been said to me that nobody -- male or female -- has ever had the guts to say to my face. At least not more than once. Now, I can be pretty rude, myself (I prefer to think of it as "outspoken"). And if somebody wants to ask me outside, I can deal with that. But how do you ask somebody outside in cyberspace?

The Old West has gotten a bad reputation. We hear the name "Old West" bandied about all the time -- as a scare-tactic -- when we fear that civilization is becoming more dangerous. The favorite sky-is-falling cry of the gun-grabbers is "it'll be like the Old West" unless they confiscate our guns. But in truth, people were much more polite to each other in the West of yore than they are today. They darned well had to be.

If some of these blog commenters had said to anybody in old Tombstone or Dodge City the sort of shit they say to me, they'd either have been dragged outside and horsewhupped within an inch of their lives or they'd have been ordered to stand up and draw.

I am kinda careful about shooting my mouth off to people I don't know. It's like flipping the bird at a motorist who tailgates you. Freedom of expression is a wonderful thing. But there are some real psychos out there. One of these days, one of these cyber-snipers is going to make the mistake of getting that nasty to somebody in person -- and when they do, they're just liable to get themselves shot. Nastiness can be a fatal habit.

I'm not saying they ought to get shot; I'm only issuing a warning. People ARE, indeed, shooting each other more and more often. They shoot each other much more often, I would guess, than they ever did in the Old West. Some of the people doing the shooting are psychos, plain and simple. Others are simply damned sick and tired of taking other people's shit. Instead of trying to take everybody's gun away, we'd contribute a lot more to a civil society if we started raising our kids right again.

The real problem with rude people is that nobody hauled them out behind the woodshed when they were kids. Turns out that "spare the rod and spoil the child" makes more sense than the Dr. Spock generation could begin to imagine. These people are poster children for corporal punishment. But shooting them is a pretty drastic remedy for their parents' mistakes.

What's the difference between the Old West and today? People back then knew the difference between the right way to treat others and the wrong way. Their parents taught them MANNERS. Even the baddest of desperadoes had mothers who made them say "please" and "thank you," and they probably tipped their hats to the ladies who passed by. Rude adults are nothing more than oversized spoiled brats.

What we're really trying to do, when we cut rude people down to size, is to practice REMEDIAL PARENTING. The problem is that we either go overboard about it (We don't know how to parent others if we've had bad parenting, ourselves) or else some self-appointed nanny or schoolmarm steps in and sits us in the corner. Most of the nannies and the schoolmarms, however, don't know the difference between right and wrong. Anger is so threatening to them, in and of itself, that they can't tell the difference between someone who's acting badly and someone who's defending him- or herself. This is the reason the Nanny State should never be allowed to confiscate law-abiding citizens' guns.

The Remedy is the Golden Rule.

If ever there was someone who understood real morality -- who knew how people ought to treat one another -- it was Jesus. "Do unto others," He admonished, "as you would have them do unto you." We have come to call this maxim The Golden Rule. Even the most witless child can understand it. Too bad so many supposedly-intelligent adults do not.

I never throw the first punch, but I usually get in the last one. Nobody's proud of a bully, but parents used to have the good sense to be proud if their kid stood up to one. I don't like getting punched, which is exactly WHY I'm never the first to land one. But some people don't learn not to throw the first blow until they've taken the last one. People who will not defend themselves or others are not "kind" -- they are useful idiots to evil.

Does that mean that all rude people are evil? I hope not. Again, I can be rude myself. But there are varying degrees of disregard for others, and though it may begin with rude, you can end up with Hitler. Teach your children to respect others, to treat them as they themselves would be treated, and you are, at the very least, steering them in the opposite direction.

We are behaving like bullies in our invasion of Iraq. If the Iraqi people had had the guts to overthrow Saddam Hussein and fight the forces that want to keep them enslaved, we would have been right in going over there and helping them out. But exactly what is this nonsense about killing people to make them free? If they REALLY want freedom, they'll kick our keysters out of there and run the country by themselves. But of course, the very people who claim that we're not bullies will never stand for that.

"Freedom isn't free," say the bumper-stickers of the cowards who let others do their fighting for them. They seem to think we'll mistake them for heroes simply because they can talk like John Wayne. But there's nothing wrong with the slogan. Freedom ISN'T free, which is why, in order to have it, you have to want it enough to stand up and fight for it yourself.

Of course terrorism must be punished. Evil is evil, regardless of its country of origin. Why the hell didn't we bomb the crap out of Saudi Arabia and Egypt for sending their terrorists over here to attack us? Could it have been because Saudi Arabia and Egypt can fight back?

That wouldn't have daunted our soldiers one bit, but President Pom-Pom Girl won't take any stand that requires genuine gumption. Gumption is something he simply doesn't have. They'd never elect me President, because I'd attack any country whose citizens attacked mine. If your citizens become terrorists and attack our country, an immediate state of war should exist between your nation and mine. It is the duty of those in the countries that harbor terrorists to root out terrorism -- and if they aren't willing to do that duty, then we should treat them the same way we would if they sent their army to attack us.

I hope for the best for the people in Iraq and Afghanistan. If their elections lead to good things, then more power to them. But whether they have democracy and freedom is not my problem. It's up to them to provide those things for themselves, not to me. I doubt they lose much sleep over how much freedom and democracy I have.

We did what we had to do in Afghanistan. And if, indeed, Iraq harbored terrorists before the invasion, then we had every right to bomb them back into the Stone Age. But "giving" them democracy, all nice and wrapped up in shiny paper with a pretty bow? Even democracy freely chosen -- by people who know what to do with it -- is no sure-fire deterrent to terrorism. Just look at what happened in London and Spain.

The Golden Rule does not dictate syrupy do-gooderism. I don't have the obligation to make your life peachy-keen in every way, but simply to treat you as I want to be treated. If you do me no evil, you'll get none back. But if you are evil (or at least insist upon doing it), I am doing society a valuable public service by kicking your ass. And if somebody else gets to you first, I regard that as the Golden Rule in action.

Somebody will surely point out to me that Jesus also said "Don't return evil for evil." But if you are a rude person or a bully, then the kindest thing somebody can do for you is kick your ass. It would have been better for you if you'd gotten the belt a few times when you were growing up. But hey, better late than never.


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