(article photo by Bobert2015, wikicommons)
The air had turned cold, so I went down to my corner bar to visit with my buddy Dickie. He was at his usual spot, beer in hand, watching the news.
“So, what’s the news specialty of the day?” I asked, full of Christmas cheer and good will. “Anything good going on?”
“Well,” he replied, “there is another road rage story about two guys getting into an argument. They holler at each other, then one guys pulls out his gun and shoots the other guy, and he dies.”
“That ain’t good, but sounds about right. We have a lot of tough guys around these days. Mess with them and they’ll blow you away.”
“That’s about it,” he said. “But I’m not sure I’d call these guys all that tough. Seems to me we have a lot of tough wannabes these days who don’t have anything to do with their toughness, so they end up doing something stupid.”
“So,” I said, “you’re thinking that a guy who whips out a gun and blows somebody away ain’t all that tough. What about Clint Eastwood? What about Schwarzenegger? What about Gerard Butler? Didn’t you see London Has Fallen? He killed a hundred guys.”
“Well, let’s talk about it,” he said. “Back in my grandfather’s day, they didn’t have anything. No possessions, no money, barely any clothes. Worked on the farm, or in the factory, with crappy machinery, bad conditions, low pay. So they grew up tough and hard, and when they got into a fight, they hit each other with their fists. My grandma used to say she go anywhere without grandpa getting into a row. And he was a great guy. It was just the way they were.
"Then, in my dad’s day, they were raised tough by their tough guy parents. Mostly they lived in relative poverty, or at least as it seems now. Few toys. No air conditioning. No television. Chores to do every day.
"Then a lot of them ended up fighting people trying to take over the world. They spent months and years in the trenches, saw things we can’t even imagine. Came back here, pulled themselves together and found a way to make a living, without bitching or complaining. A lot of them were tough and hard. And none of them went around shooting anyone.”
“Yeah,” I said, “Most of us had dads like that. You didn’t mess with them. No lip. No sass. No crying having to go out and cut the grass, shovel the snow, or get a job.”
“Right,” he followed. “They earned their tattoos. It wasn’t pretend macho. They would beat your ass if you smarted off.
"But now,” he continued, “there are real military guys who see some tough duty, but it’s a smaller number. And a lot of the others, like these guys who get into road rage incidents, are so-called tough guys with nothing to do to prove how tough they are. So they go off on some guy who cuts them off on the road, using a gun instead of actually fighting. It ain’t tough, it’s just stupid.”
“Alright, I get your point. But you have to admit, there are still a lot of guys out there who look the role of being tough. Look around and there are a million guys, and some girls, who look like they all could kick your ass.”
“Well hell, that ain’t very hard,” he replied. “The point is that it’s easy to look tough when you don’t have real tough-guy stuff to do. They’re aren’t a lot of bears around, like that bear from The Revenant. They’re are criminals out there, but no more so than ever. We all have in-door plumbing, whole-house heat, air conditioning, internet and cell phones.
"But if you watch a little television, or read the newspaper ads, and you’d think we live in Tombstone. You gotta be ready to draw down on the bad guys. Not take any lip. Defend America from the invaders. Protect yourself from predators, aliens, thugs, crazies and invasive plant species. It’s marketing based on fear and everybody is buying in.”
“Hmmm. So, in your version, someone, somewhere is marketing fear so they can sell a lot of stuff. And most of us don’t really have much tough-stuff to do, but we want to act like we’re still tough guys, so we buy all this crap. Then we over-react when somebody cuts us off.”
“Well,” he continued, “Think about it. Sam Elliot is in about every other commercial, selling $50,000 trucks that somebody can pick up with a crane. A lot these trucks look like they came out of Mad Max. But where do they drive them? Hell everything is paved.
"Then, every weekend, there are sixteen pages of ads in the paper for guns, hunting supplies and outdoor wear when the hunting seasons are about two weeks long.
You can get any gun short of an uzi, pretty much all for killing deer, squirrels, rabbits, and ducks.
"I actually like shooting, but it’s become like golf. You have to have a different gun for every occasion. And you really gotta work to find a place to shoot, or critters to kill.
"Then,” he continued, “we have camouflage everything. You can get camo socks, underwear and bras, most of it sold in very large sizes. The inference is that everybody is out hunting all the time.
"But the reality is that for a few weeks a year, guys drive their big trucks out into the woods, walk a little way, then sit on a tree stand with night goggles, tree-stand umbrellas and safety ropes and hand and foot warmers.
"Or they buy duck calls, deer scents, scent-reducer ozone gone, grizzly bear traps, hearing enhancers and even buck and doe attractants, whatever in the hell those are. Whatever happened to a guy just grabbing a gun and going out to kill vermin?”
“But one thing I think you’re missing,” I said, “is that you’re inferring that this tough-guy thing only applies to gun-guys and hunters. A lot of these guys really just enjoy fishing and hunting and aren’t trying to be tough. You’re generalizing.”
“You’re right. There are different types of tough guys, but they’re all subject to tough-guy marketing.
"Inner city tough guys do the whole thug, rap, gun thing. The danger is more real there, but a lot of it is thug-marketing. You gotta look a certain way, act cool, dress like for the street. Somebody’s selling them the look.
"Then you have yuppie-tough, guys going to health clubs and spas, carrying guns and talking about calibers, bullet rotations speeds and gun stocks. The marketing has reached out the them because they have the money. Maybe they take their guns to soccer practice and PTA meetings.
"Or you can have cool-chick marketing, where the girls join into the whole thing, talking about guns, sprays, self-defense classes and ass-kicking. Have you ever noticed that about every movie these days features a 5'3” woman beating the hell out of a Navy Seal?“
"You don’t think that happens in real life?” I asked.
“Probably a little, but not every frickin’ day. According to Hollywood, every woman in the world can kick every guy’s ass, every guy with a knife loses a fight, and every bad guy with a machine gun never hits anything. But that’s another story.”
“Okay, okay,” I stammered, “I get it. There’s a lot of marketing of tough-guy stuff. And a lot of it is nonsense because you’re right; most of us ain’t that tough, we’re overweight, and we couldn’t run to the end of the street without passing out. Plus we like indoor plumbing, warm clothes, staying dry and feeling like we’re in control. What the hell does that have to do with so-called tough guys shooting somebody because of road rage?”
“Some people try to live the image. They don’t have a war to fight, or people to protect, or the environment to overcome. But they buy into all of this stuff, so when the opportunity comes, they’re ready to rumble. Guy cuts them off, they’re armed with weapons and possibly delusions of toughness, so off they go.”
“It’s like the tenth stage of drunkedness - indestructible. But it ain’t caused by booze, it’s caused by marketing making them feel like tough guys.”
“Well,” I continued, “there is a point to some of this. We’ve got a lot of tough-guy stuff, but not a lot of places to use it.”
“If we’re lucky, one day, maybe we’ll actually be invaded, then everyone with all of this mano-y-mano equipment will actually have something to do with it.”
“I can’t wait,” I concluded. “Maybe then companies can market end-of-the-world clothing, and survival kits.”
“Yeah,” he said, “with "end-of-the-world gray camo, extra heavy gauge armor, nylon to wick away the sweat, and an "eating lite recipe book” for the Apocalypse.“