Is America as “civilized” as we think?: a letter to the editor

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There’s a classic scene in The Magnificent Seven (1960) where two salesmen are trying to persuade an undertaker to carry out a funeral one of them’s paid for. The deceased had dropped dead in the street and for two hours nobody had paid any attention.

The undertaker is refusing to complete the transaction and offers to return the $20, saying “…there’s an element in town that objects.”

The second salesman asks, “Objects…to what?”

The undertaker replies, “ They say he isn’t fit to be buried there”

The first salesman exclaims, “What, in Boot Hill?!”, whereby the second salesman (who’s footing the bill) interjects, “There’s nothing up there but murderers, cutthroats and derelict old barflies. And if they ever felt exclusive, brother, they’re past it now.”

The undertaker replies, somewhat sadly, “They happen to be white, friend, and Old Sam…Old Sam was an Indian.”

The second salesman huffs in disbelief, then says, “…I never knew you had to be anything but a corpse to get into Boot Hill. How long’s this been goin’ on?”

Smiling sheepishly, the undertaker replies, “Since the town got civilized.”

“We the people” of the United States have our own “…element in town that objects” and its membership is growing at an alarming rate. Perhaps the “good people” within our national community should reassess their views regarding what’s considered “civilized” because of late, given the current political climate within this nation, we Americans don’t have much to brag about on that score. Maybe that’s one big reason why the world doesn’t look up to us like it used to; we don’t deserve it.

James R. Puz

University of Arizona (‘75)