Movie Classic (1974): ‘Death Wish’

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I haven’t seen Death Wish since it was in the theaters, but we watched it today.

Charles Bronson plays a civilized, peace-loving architect whose wife and daughter are savaged, and the wife killed, by muggers who break into their apartment. Bronson acquires a gun and walks around New York by night, offering himself as bait. When the bad guys try to rob him, he shoots them. In the resulting media storm, the city’s crime rate goes way down.

I just want to tell you something that every political scientist knows: in fact, it’s not political science at all. It’s common sense.

A government that cannot or will not protect its citizens from those who would do them harm has no reason for existing. Sooner or later the people will replace that government with one that can and will protect them.

Death Wish hits hard on the resignation and hopelessness of “civilized” people who don’t understand self-defense and just sort of hang around waiting to be victims. But eventually a spark comes along that ignites them–and then watch out.

American history is full of lawless towns, cities, and territories that were cleaned up and pacified by governments willing to shoulder the burden. By governments I mean individuals who did the job, sometimes at the cost of their lives. Elfego Baca and Judge Parker spring to mind; and Woodes Rogers, in the lawless Caribbean of the early 18th century. Parker and Rogers employed the same crime-reduction formula: hang the bad guys.

It can be done. It doesn’t have to be done by vigilantes.

But it sure as shootin’ won’t be done by liberals.

10 comments on “Movie Classic (1974): ‘Death Wish’

  1. Ah, yes. I remember the Death Wish movies with Charles Bronson. I liked them then and I like them now, vigilante justice and all. As you point out, Lee, when the government won’t or can’t do its job, the people eventually will rise up and do it for them, while booting them to the curb.

  2. Right now, there are places in Europe where citizens are not being protected from crimes, especially from rape. I fear that there will be a breakdown if the governments don’t accept the fact that this is happening and take action to enforce the law and punish wrongdoers. This could get ugly.

    Recently, I was in a conversation with someome that held a pacifist viewpoint. I mentioned some historical examples of threats to civilization and asked him if they could have been solved by sending pacifists in to reason matters out. I WISH that life worked that way, but history would argue otherwise. In our fallen world, order is kept ONLY because there are people willing to step forward and take the necessary action to protect themselves and others.

    1. You really do wonder what those Western European governments are thinking of. It seems inexplicable.
      I’m surprised that powder keg hasn’t exploded yet.

  3. I am proud to live in the town of Judge Parker. We have the gallows he used on display at our historic site. “True Grit”, that takes place in Fort Smith, Arkansas is such a good story it has been made twice into a movie.

    1. Parker had what looked like a virtually impossible job, bringing law and order to a vast territory. He practically worked himself to death, and a lot of his marshals didn’t live to see their work completed. But he got it done!

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