Shooting from the Hip; or, What Every Candidate Needs to Know


Shoot from the Hip, copyright es 2008, based on Italian movie poster for A Fistful of Dollars

Everyone’s jumping on the presidential and vice presidential candidates: too cool, too hot-tempered, too much woman, too little man. And like a phantom, the Mythic Cowboy rides through before fading away into the mists of the collective unconscious.

Thomas Friedman, in his September 9th New York Times op-ed column titled “From the Gut” describes what a successful politician needs:

If you as a politician connect with voters on a gut level, they will follow you anywhere and not fret about the details. If you don’t connect with them on a gut level, you can’t show them enough details.

“Gut-level,” what Americans respond to, is just a cliché away from “shoot from the hip,” and a heartbeat away from the highest office in America’s theme park, Cowboyland.

So Americans prefer a shoot-from-the-hip kind of guy or gal.* What does it mean? To recklessly act, without thought of consequence? Or to speak bluntly and directly, even assertively? It depends on whether you live in a blue state or a red state, bucko. But then it doesn’t matter what we, the voters think. Shooting from the hip sounds really cool when you haven’t been in combat. And in combat, it’s just one more of the many defensive or offensive strategies you can use**

Shooting from the hip–It’s the 1950s all over again, the epitome of coolness, when G-Men did “point shooting,” the kind of aiming that relies more on the shooter’s natural reaction to stress than using the sights of a gun. Think about it: isn’t it true that if you are being attacked by the forces of fundamentalism of the non-Christian kind, it’s way better to rely on your gut instinct than fuss around with centering a target in the sights. Just shoot the gun in roughly the right direction and you’ll hit roughly the right person.

The big however for me is this: if point shooting, or shooting from the hip, is effective at short range under stressful situations, is it really a good choice for long-range international and domestic planning? The farther you are from your target, the more necessary it is to use a visual index, such a sight. As the distance grows, the shooter must use more discernment and care in lining up the sight with the target to achieve effective results. It’s a clear difference of approach, once you follow this particular Cliché Trail to its end.

We may very well be entering year nine of Cowboyland once Election Day comes and goes. We may very well have a straight-shooting kind of guy and gal in the Oval Office. But do these two know what real gunfighters know? That a fast draw takes second place to a calm mind?

*Whatever my personal preference, I’m loving the fact we now can write “or gal” without using parentheses that I usually took to mean “not in my lifetime will we ever have a woman running for president or v.p.”

** I read a piece based on this thought–back in the days when people mentioned President Bush–to a group of Vietnam veterans against the Iraq war. I was scared shitless. Who was I, a passive-aggressive, to speak about combat and guns to those who had given their health and peace of mind so that I could write about combat and guns? They liked the piece. Whew.

This article has its origins as a previous incarnation in the infamous and incomparable alternative ‘zine Mad Hatters’ Review.

10 comments to Shooting from the Hip; or, What Every Candidate Needs to Know

  • retropete

    Great analogies, Ms. Bucko!

    Right now, there’s so much lead in the air I’m afraid we’re gonna just be left with the last guy or gal standing. So much for “the high road”. And I’m also afraid that the last one standing is the one who manages not to shoot their self in the foot.

  • Bucko

    Ha! I think shooting one’s self in the foot is from having a hair trigger. Or a defective weapon. Either way, it’s no good.

    And you’re right, there isn’t a high road in sight.

  • Picksburg Kid

    Just like then the Transcontinental Railroad finally met, and an enterprising telegrapher hit his key for each strike of the final spike, the wide world of telecommunication has made the rug you sweep things under a lot smaller, and less opaque.

    Time was, when you could only find things out by going to the library, and searching through old newspapers and periodicals. Or straining your eyes squinting at microfilms.

    Now with the internet, things got a whole lot easier,
    and tougher at the same time.

    If I were to (for example) post a picture of our own Bucko dancing sans cowboy boots in front of a Tudor ranch house, it would be there for the world to see. INSTANTLY.

    Which of course, why there are so many speechwriters, and publicists to put a spin on potentially bad situations.

  • Picksburg Kid

    BTW, if anyone out there in cowboyland wants a copy of said pic,
    leave $15 in small unmarked bills beneath the stone by the hollow tree….. ;-)

  • Bucko

    Hell’s bells, just when I thought I was safe from my suburban past. Picksburg Kid should realize how many photos are floating out there of him from his not-ready-for-prime-time life. All it takes is a little scanning… And hey, only $15? Sheesh. I’m disappointed.

    Anyhoo, back to the images: it takes a figurative army to work the spin on these things. A really good site for photo spin-skewering is http://bagnewsnotes.typepad.com/ and they are always happy to hear from the peanut gallery. The transcontinental railroad to Internet image: from literal spike to virtual reality connecting things. To continue tht analogy, you can see the railroad connecting along proscribed paths–where towns and powers-that-be chose (or bribed to get). The Internet connects in more than one dimension, with less than formal results.

    Ah, to revel in the image!

  • Picksburg Kid

    Step away from the scanner……..

    I’ll pay ya 20 pieces of gold to lose the one with the dwarf and the shetland pony in the old mine:-)
    My ornery pardner wants the one with the saloon girl.

    I love research, and the internet.
    The sheer volume is in itself overwhelming.
    On the other hand, without it, such things as this blog would not be possible.

  • Picksburg Kid

    Back to my Roy Rogers moviethon……

  • Bucko

    For all the vapid navel-gazing sites out there (oh, not mine, of course) you get wazillions of wonderful finds, from a full-length clip of Romero’s Night of the Living Dead to literally 38 pages by Googling “cowboy mythos” to Hello Kitty hell on earth, http://www.kittyhell.com/.

  • Picksburg Kid

    how many zeros after a wazillion?
    is it bigger than a gazillion?

  • Bucko

    It’s less than zazillion and more than razillion.

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