Thursday, January 29, 2009


...which I do in the previous post; my heroes have always been cowboys--and I definitely prefer the John Wayne variety over the 'midnight' metrosexual type.

I grew up with cowboys. Not in real life, of course, but on the TV screen. My earliest heroes were those rough, tough shoot-em-up guys whose goal was justice and who seemed oblivious to their own tragic fate as they pursued that justice with single-minded efficiency. This essay by Victor Davis Hanson reminds me of why I loved The Lone Ranger, Will Kane of High Noon and all the others:
Instead, the cowboy more often evokes marshal Will Kane of High Noon. When given the choice of riding out of Hadleyville for a much deserved retirement with his newlywed wife, the tired Gary Cooper instead turns back to face the Miller gang alone. Although his prospects of survival are slim, Kane won’t run or abandon his town that, in fact, would rather appease such killers. In that sense, for some it is not such a bad thing for cowboy Bush to confront regional bullies like Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, Kim Jong Il, or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — even if the Europeans, like the townspeople of Hadleyville, delude themselves that the Millers of our world would leave them alone if their stubborn self-appointed protector would just ride away. The recent unprovoked attacks by Hamas, Hezbollah, and the verbiage from Iran and Syria should disabuse any of that naiveté.
That Greek tragic theme — Sophocles’ dramas Ajax and Philoctetes center on the flawed hero that we both shun and need — is a Western constant. In the Magnificent Seven, the outcast hired guns ride into save a Mexican village from bandits. Then after the bloodletting, the surviving Yul Brenner and Steve McQueen depart knowing that they are not to enjoy the tranquility and order that they have alone been able to impart to others only through their gunplay.

The truth is that we live in a global Hadleyville that has deluded itself that international communications, cell phones, or the Internet — like the onset of the 19th-century railroad and telegraph — equate to civilization. In fact, they are all only a thin flashy veneer atop a still wild and savage world in which outlaw regimes like North Korea , Saddam’s Iraq , or Iran push until stopped. After all, the present-day United Nations can protect nations and dispense justice about as well as the territorial marshal a three-day-ride away or the corrupt bought sheriff of a cattle baron’s town. And a Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mullah Omar, or Saddam Hussein listens to international warnings about as much as Liberty Valance paid heed to the bumbling coward of a sheriff, Link Appleyard.
So privately most appreciate an American Tom Doniphon, Shane or Will Kane who from time to time will appear out of nowhere to stand up to a Saddam, Taliban, or Kim Jung Il — or the recent crop of bullies in Lebanon, Syria, and Iran. The latter all may think that an exasperated lame duck George Bush, suffering from international rebuke and low approval ratings, has dropped his flashy cowboy veneer. Perhaps and probably for the better — but they should still beware: if the now brooding Bush really is a cowboy, then he may deal with a few more rogues before he leaves — caring not at all for our present approval but only for his own code and our future safety when he is gone.

The cowboy hero of my youth was a simple man who minded his own business and valued his freedom. It would take a lot to stir him up, but once aroused, he was unstoppable. His talk might be drawling or lazy, but not his principles; and the violence which was always there under the surface of his placidity could be called on to defend and protect that which he valued. Then he would ride out into the sunset; his job done, his duty fulfilled.

He never turned away from what had to be done; and he never cared much for nuance or appeasement. He always understood and accepted the consequences of his actions, not caring if he was liked or loved; but doing what he thought was right, no matter what the cost.

Today the American cowboy lives on in spirit in many aspects of our society. But if anything, there is even more contempt and anger heaped on him by our modern, cynical, and metrosexual society; who long ago stopped valuing the heroic and sees no need for cowboys in the new age.

Today, any hint of unsophisticated cowboy heroics or clear talk of 'right and wrong' or 'good and evil' are met with scorn by the spoiled elites of the world, who perceive the modern cowboy as an unwanted anachronism and a genuine liability--his mere existence a frightening threat to the fantasy world of love and peace they have created in their minds.

Still, it is lucky for us that our modern cowboys in the law and military continue to do what all real cowboys were born to do.

The American cowboy can be found today all over the world, committed to freedom and fighting to liberate the oppressed. It is the American cowboy who, without complaint and certainly without fanfare, has been risking his and her life, bringing real change and real hope to the world:
What is hope? Well, it is an average American, from an average place, who put on a uniform and fought to liberate oppressed people- and then went home.

We don’t lack for heroes. Our problem is that we have a culture that refuses to recognize them, and prefers instead to worship celebrity; be awed by mellifluous rhetoric; and gratify already-inflated egos.

Zane Gray and many other western authors understood that the only thing standing between civilization and the outlaws who preyed on the innocent were those few quiet cowboys who held to the code of the west. Civilization might hate and despise them for the violence of their methods--but civilization most certainly could not survive without their moral clarity and protection.

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don't let 'em pick guitars and drive them old trucks
Make 'em be doctors and lawyers and such
Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys
'Cause they'll never stay home and they're always alone
Even with someone they love

Cowboys ain't easy to love and they're harder to hold
They'd rather give you a song than diamonds or gold
Lonestar belt buckles and old faded Levis
And each night begins a new day
If you don't understand him, and he don't die young
He'll probably just ride away

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don't let 'em pick guitars or drive them old trucks
Make 'em be doctors and lawyers and such
Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys
'Cause they'll never stay home and they're always alone
Even with someone they love

Cowboys like smoky old pool rooms and clear mountain mornings
Little warm puppies and children and girls of the night
Them that don't know him won't like him and them that do
Sometimes won't know how to take him
He ain't wrong, he's just different but his pride won't let him
Do things to make you think he's right

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