What’ve guns got to do with it, anyway?

Posted on Thursday 29 May 2008

I try to keep up with national news especially if it has a local connection, but reading the front page article, “Dickens residents back accused Blackwater shooter”, in the Sunday, May 18 issue of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal was the first I had heard of former Dickens resident Paul Slough’s predicament. If you didn’t see the article, A-J reporter Henri Brickey interviewed some respected and reputable Dickens residents who expressed pride in a hometown boy who had gone to Iraq to serve his country. The article exhibited a willingness on their part to believe in a young man with strong character who overcame obstacles to obtain his high school diploma and join the military. A 1999 graduate of Patton Springs High School, Slough joined the Army and served several deployments before he was honorably discharged.

According to the article, Slough, now an employee with civilian private security contractor Blackwater, was on a security convoy for some U.S. State Department officials on September 15, 2007 in Baghdad when a white car, traveling the wrong way, failed to yield to the convoy. What exactly happened depends on who is giving the report, but a shootout ensued and, in the end, 17 Iraqi civilians died. Slough is the only Blackwater team member who has been named, yet there were others involved.

Curious, I “Googled” his name to find the origin of the news tip that led the A-J to run such a story, and the only other news outlet which came up was an article from a January 19, 2008 article in the New York Times. That is the news outlet that named Slough. Read it at http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/19/us/19slough.html

The NY Times has a tendency to dramatize things, expecially when it comes to guns and cowboys (for which they derive their image from Clint Eastwood westerns) as seen in the following paragraph in the aforementioned article: “This flat, arid corner of the country, settled by cattle ranchers, is not different from many small towns that propel young men and women into the military. It is a place where working-class people hold traditional ideas about what it means to be an American, where churches outnumber restaurants and children learn to handle weapons not long after learning to read and write.” Not all Texas children handle weapons, but if one is going to handle a gun, I appreciate when one is taught to use one responsibly as a child.

You be the judge. As for me, when I read about how “children here learn to handle weapons not long after learning to read or write”, I couldn’t help but remember the news media’s description of John Hinckley, Jr. in 1981 after he shot President Reagan. I was going to school at Texas Tech at the time (also a stop-over for Hinckley in his education) and will never forget how we students were portrayed by the media as “gun-toting” even going so far to say that we carried guns to class in our backpacks. Even if we had, what did that have to do with Hinckley and his actions in 1981?

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