The lesson of the splattered tater

I killed the potato. Killed it good. That potato was obliterated.

In preparing for a concealed-carry class, we figured we should have a physical sense of how to handle a handgun, not just head knowledge, and a friend agreed to teach Red and me the basics before we took the class.

As part of that training, he had us do some target practice. The goal was to hit a potato he had placed on a log about 15 feet away.

After four or five carefully aimed shots, I finally blew up the potato. Two things had a profound impact on me.

The first was how fast a bullet travels. Each of my misses instantly kicked up debris on the river bank 50 yards past the potato.

The second was the power of the strike. That potato exploded. Imagining that kind of power against a living creature gave me a chill.

I thought of the potato as I watched the opening scenes of the new Disney-Plus and Marvel Studios TV show, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

The Falcon, a flying Avenger, is tasked with rescuing a soldier who has been captured by evildoers. The prisoner is being transported in a helicopter. As the Falcon approaches the scene, he is accosted by a number of bad guys, beginning with four people dressed in some sort of high-tech gliding suit.

One by one, the Falcon kills the four attackers. Then he causes two helicopters to crash, killing everyone on board. At the last minute before the last copter crosses the border into a country where the terrorists can’t be touched without sparking an international furor, Falcon zips through the helicopter, grabbing the prisoner and saving the day. I’m pretty sure I recall the last helicopter also crashing with everyone on board.

And in reciting what I recall of the scene, I’m pretty sure I left out more than a handful of other deaths. I wasn’t interested in watching a second time.

I didn’t enjoy watching this depiction of death and destruction. In comic-book film tradition, little actual blood was shown during all the bloodshed, but after my experience with shooting the potato to pieces, I felt the impact of each blow, each fiery explosion, each body shattered against cliffs.

Fights have always been part of comic-book stories, but once upon a time they usually showed superheroes knocking supervillains and other bad guys senseless — as in, they were going to wake up in jail. Spider-Man and Superman and the Fantastic Four and even Batman tried not to kill their adversaries. They didn’t ring up body counts like the one rolled up in the opening 5-10 minutes of Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

I think kids who revel in the faux deaths of video games and “action” movies need to have the experience of shooting a potato. It puts what they’re seeing on screen into a bit of perspective, helps them understand the reality of such a scene, and maybe gives them pause if they ever happen to be wielding a real gun.

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