Hunter S. Thompson Gets in a Gunfight with His Neighbor & Dispenses Political Wisdom: “In a Democracy, You Have to Be a Player”

What would Hunter S. Thomp­son, in many ways the ulti­mate Amer­i­can, have made of his coun­try’s polit­i­cal scene today? Hav­ing lived, in the words of his 2005 sui­cide note, “17 years past 50. 17 more than I need­ed or want­ed,” the self-styled and always uncom­pro­mis­ing “gonzo jour­nal­ist” did­n’t stick around to observe much of the 21st cen­tu­ry, and even as grim­ly vivid a polit­i­cal imag­i­na­tion as his could hard­ly have fore­seen many of its devel­op­ments. Yet like the longer-gone Alex­is de Toc­queville, also very much a man of his own time, Thomp­son’s per­spec­tive on democ­ra­cy in Amer­i­ca has in some sense only grown more rel­e­vant over the years with­out him.

Thomp­son would, in life, offer this per­spec­tive on any and all occa­sions, includ­ing dur­ing a shootout with his neigh­bor. In his final decades, his bio­graph­i­cal blurbs ref­er­enced both a love of firearms and a 42.5‑acre “for­ti­fied com­pound,” known as Owl Farm, in Woody Creek, Col­orado.

One might assume that such a remote and seclud­ed loca­tion would rule out the pos­si­bil­i­ty of con­flicts with neigh­bors, but Thomp­son’s expe­ri­ence (as often it did) proved an excep­tion. In the recent­ly released footage above, we see him exchang­ing gun­fire with a new­ly arrived res­i­dent in a dis­pute hav­ing some­thing to do with live­stock. “If this son of a bitch wants to bitch about his cows over here and shoot at me, well… it’s our coun­try. It’s not theirs. It’s not a bunch of used car deal­ers from south­ern Cal­i­for­nia.”

No mat­ter how impul­sive or reck­less it might seem, Thomp­son’s behav­ior arose organ­i­cal­ly, from a foun­da­tion­al polit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy. “The peo­ple who did this Dec­la­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence and the Con­sti­tu­tion were, uh, good peo­ple,” he says in voiceover as we watch him assume a com­bat stance and fire off a few rounds. “And it’s a good place. Here we are in the mid­dle of it, up on the moun­tain,” from his perch on which he came to see him­self as a kind of ultra-lib­er­tar­i­an defend­er of the mis­sion of the Found­ing Fathers, or at least the mis­sion of the Found­ing Fathers as he inter­pret­ed it. The author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas ends by remind­ing Amer­i­cans of some­thing they tend to for­get until plunged into one cri­sis or anoth­er: “In a democ­ra­cy, you have to be a play­er.”

via red­dit

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hunter S. Thomp­son Sets His Christ­mas Tree on Fire, Near­ly Burns His House Down (1990)

Play­ing Golf on LSD With Hunter S. Thomp­son: Esquire Edi­tor Remem­bers the Odd­est Game of Golf

Hunter S. Thompson’s Har­row­ing, Chem­i­cal-Filled Dai­ly Rou­tine

Hunter S. Thomp­son, Exis­ten­tial­ist Life Coach, Gives Tips for Find­ing Mean­ing in Life

Read 10 Free Arti­cles by Hunter S. Thomp­son That Span His Gonzo Jour­nal­ist Career (1965–2005)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (4)
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  • Deathknyte says:

    Sud­den­ly, I have respect for the man.

  • Meremortal says:

    Clas­sic Hunter, a set up. That’s one of his bud­dies and they aren’t shoot­ing any­where near each oth­er.

  • Joseph Carl Ruger says:

    The King­dom of Fear is a great descrip­tion of what Amer­i­ca has become. I wish Hunter had trav­eled to Tai­wan and learned what true free­dom means, before he offed him­self

  • William Le says:

    This does not strike me as a big deal.

    Any­one who knew Hunter would con­sid­er this “par for the course”.

    Only the straight, stiff, uptight squares freak out on this stuff.…

    The rest of us chuck­le know­ing­ly and play-through.

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