A quirky little comedy called the Survivors rolled into movie theaters back in 1983. It featured
Robin Williams, Walter Matthau and Jerry Reed.
As I recall, Williams and Matthau are recently jobless men who are thrown together by circumstances whenthey foil Jerry Reed's attempted bank robbery.
Reed finds Williams' house, attempting a little revenge and is thwarted again.
The film spins off in a really offbeat direction when Williams declares "I sure do miss that gun" -
referring to the 1911 he had taken off Reed while subduing him.
I first saw the film on cable probably around 1985 or so. I was only 13 then, and already quite interested in firearms. I had only fired airguns up to that point, yet I somehow understood that sentiment, and was impressed that the filmmakers would include that line.
It is, in fact, a typical reaction. People who are against guns and or even merely neutral on the topic, frequently enjoy a gentle introduction to shooting, leave with a smile on their face and a question on their lips: "when are we going back to the range?"
Pursuing that feeling, he takes a trip to Edelman's, a huge gun store in the lower New York area and does a bit of shopping.
In so doing, he hooks up with a group of survivalists, probably in upstate New York. They're presented
as a bunch of caricatures, but probably the first mass-distributed appearance of a "militia" as the media has come to classically depict them.
The film was probably made in late 1982. American-Soviet relations were frosty at best, and Volker's inflation-crushing interest rate hikes had helped spike up unemployment.
The modern survival movement probably had some seeds in the civil defense routines that America established during the Second World War, but really kicked into high gear during the Cold War, with a fair number of people building their own bomb shelters and stocking up on consumables that would hopefully allow them to live through immediate blast effects and the first few weeks of fallout.
Williams settles into the survival community, and the final act of the film is a standoff between him,
his family, Reed, and Matthau.
Matthau actually gives a rather moving speech, dressing down the survivalists as a bunch of phonies that are
"waiting... no... hoping" for the Bomb to drop so that all of their thinking, planning and preparation
can bear some sort of fruit.
If you asked someone why they're digging an extra-spacious basement or buying lots of food with an
extended shelf life 30 years ago, you'd hear that it was a hedge against a nuclear conflict.
While there are some signs that Russia and the US might be "frenemies" of a rather odd sort, "preppers" now have an interesting mix of reasons for doing what they do.
Perhaps the global economy will collapse due to untenable debt levels. Terrorists might detonate a series of dirty bombs in key areas of finance and energy production, rendering them uninhabitable. The Chinese could start getting aggressive and start grabbing resources with their ascending military might. Or a natural disaster of unprecedented scale could kill millions.
Good preparation isn't about hoping for any of this to happen. It's about realizing that the stability that we see in our everyday lives can be undermined far more easily than we think. There's nothing inherently bad about having a fortified home, with stocks of food, water, medical supplies and yes, weapons. In fact, it's inherently good, and a sign that you're thinking clearly. Being ready means increasing your chances of being alive when the other shoe drops. Being prepared means helping restore order or at least not getting in the way as stretched-thin rescuers (if any) try to sort it all out. Being prepared is a statement that you will not go gently into that good night, no matter how deep the darkness that descends upon our world.