I love westerns. My dad used to take us to the tourist places, like Old Tuscon, Old Vegas, and Tombstone, where they would hold a gun battle every hour on the hour. There was the good guy and the bad guy, each apparent by the actions they were performing and the hats they were wearing. The good guy, of course, always won. He was a better gunfighter. The movies largely reflect this as well.
There is something in this narrative that is meant to convey more than who is a better fighter though. The symbolism of the gunfighter is that what is right and good will always win out against what is wrong and evil if they face one another down. I see a lot of truth in this, in that what is true is difficult to escape when all of the facts are laid bare, the presuppositions exposed, the arguments weighed, especially in light of Scripture for those who have claimed to give our lives over to the God who reveals His mind in Scripture. The gunfight of an honest argument, then, in this sense, is really a noble thing that both the one in the right and the one in the wrong approach with some integrity. Of course, unlike the movies, the good guy and the bad guy are not known until the fight is over. Both believe they carry the truth, as both believe they have the white hat on.
But there is another kind of shooter in a very different kind of movie genre, one more modern, that is not a noble gunfighter, but a coward. This is the drive-by shooter. The drive-by shooter doesn't give the other person a chance to defend himself. Nor does he give himself the chance of being harmed. He is sheltered in a vehicle, surprises the other person/victim of his cowardice, and showers him with bullets from his rolling fortress. He quickly speeds off, leaving the other person for dead, having given him little to no hope of survival.
This, of course, is unfair. It is the work of cowards. There is no nobility in it. The drive-by shooter just wants to slay his victim. He doesn't care to stand in front of him in order to see who is standing at the end. He doesn't care to give the other person a fighting chance. He just wants to win in any way that he can.
This is what most people are like today in their arguments. Most people are drive-by shooters. They don't want to face you in the street, because they don't want to be proven wrong. So they just attack you with witty one liners, quotes, signs, snide comments, etc., all of which can be used as conversation starters, but are very rarely meant to do so. If one begins to argue one of these, the person quickly gets out of the fight, because there was never any real concern for discussing the truth. There was just the desire to assert what is true without discussion. It is an imperial move upon one's lowly subjects. It is a cowardly act of aggression that seeks to subjugate any who would disagree, not by facing them down in a more noble fight, but by catching them by surprise and quickly running away, so that there is little to no chance of what is said to be rebutted.
If you want to know where we're going in terms of direction in our society (i.e., toward honest discussion versus being silenced by drive-by's) just look at the way college protestors from various universities interact with the public. Is is by entering debates, or shouting down people so that they can't speak? Is it by having calm discussions, or by yelling talking points at the other person? The Occupy Wallstreet movement is one example of this drive-by mentality. It does violence to human interaction, but mostly it does violence to the truth and the noble pursuit of honest discussion in pursuing it. Such violence is needed if one has no logic to his or her argument, but only feeling. In fact, the logical outworking of an ideology acquired through feeling is to protect it with aggressive acts that express more emotion than sense.
It's unfortunate, but we have become a bumper sticker society, where we are too cowardly to engage one another in argument head on, but feel completely comfortable arguing with one another with one liners on the back of our cars. Of course, the new bumper sticker is on Twitter or Facebook. One liners can just be delivered all day, and they can either be posted with a desire to meet one's opponents in the street, and to really want to know what is true, or, as they are more often than not, with a desire to just assert the truth without question over others with whom they disagree.
I believe the current cultural climate has fostered this cowardly mentality. There is virtually nothing taboo in our culture except calling out another's ideas or practices as wrong. People can believe and practice whatever they want, as long as they do not question the beliefs and practices of others. As soon as this is done, that person becomes a target of the drive-by, since one does not really want to engage the individual, but to merely shut them up, so that whatever the perpetrator believes can be the victorious.
Of course, our superficial interactions have made us observe the proprieties of staying away from certain subjects we deem as subjective (religion, politics, etc.), that is, until the masses are on our side, and then we feel the mandate to declare what is right and wrong, true and false, ex Cathedra.
This all stems back to whether one has a love for the truth versus a love to be comfortable in what he only wants to believe is true. But such is the characteristic of the unbeliever, and should never characterize the believer (2 Thes 2:9-12).
Gone are the days of the old gunfights, where two men met in the streets to determine who had the best draw. Replacing them is the drive-by shooting, where one merely seeks to gun down another from his cozy recliner and quickly move on to his next victim. But we have lost something more than the nobility of the act. We've lost the ability to tell the good guy from the bad guy because of it.