Mama Don't Let Your Cowboys Grow up to be Babies (or Liberals)
I have answered that first question in so many ways, that I think I’ll refrain from doing so again. My political views are summarized in a couple of posts from last March, Political Seance, Parts One and Two. The rest is commentary, as they say.
As for the second question, I think I’ll try to address it from an angle I haven’t tried before, one that was provoked by Dr. Sanity’s eloquent and moving post yesterday, entitled My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys. If this turns out to be a short post, it’s because I’m thinking this through for the first time, and my thinking may or my not arrive at its appointed destination. In other words, it may go nowhere.
Dr. Sanity writes that “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.”
I can’t summarize, so I’ll just quote her at length: “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, 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.
“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 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.”
As it so happens, back when I was in film school, we studied various genres, one of which was the western, a form that is as uniquely American as jazz or baseball. I still have some of my old notes, outlining the classic structure of the western film:
1. The hero enters a social group.
2. The hero is unknown to the society.
3. The hero is revealed to have an exceptional ability.
4. The society recognizes differences between themselves and the hero.
5. The society does not completely accept the hero.
6. The villains threaten and eventually do harm to the society.
7. The villains are stronger than the society; the society is weak and ineffectual, unable to defend itself or punish the villains.
8. The hero initially avoids involvement in the conflict.
9. There is a past history, or some kind of symmetry or respect between the hero and villain(s).
10. The villains do something particularly evil or personal to draw the hero in.
11. A representative of the Democratic Party, I mean society, asks the hero to give up his revenge.
12. The hero fights the villains.
13. The hero defeats the villains.
14. The society is safe.
15. The hero gives up his special status, the society accepts the hero, and the hero enters society.
I remember as a kid, seeing the film True Grit, the one for which John Wayne received an Oscar. On the surface, it is only a mediocre film, but I saw it again on TV a few years back, and I remember being extremely impressed with what I realized was an entirely allegorical plot that touches in some way on most of the elements described above. I’ll just hit a few highlights.
The film begins with 14-year-old Mattie Ross looking for someone to hunt down the man who killed her father and bring him to justice. Initially the straight-laced and annoyingly sanctimonious Mattie wants to work within the system, and repeatedly makes reference to her fancy lawyer, who you might say is analogous to the entirely ineffectual UN, or to “international law.” Mattie could have had her pick of lawmen, but in the end chooses the aging Cogburn for the job, because she believes he possesses “true grit.”
Interestingly, Cogburn is depicted as someone who is entirely on the fringes of society--actually, beyond the fringe. Like Presidents Bush or Reagan, he would never be accepted by the elite and effete standard-bearers of society. While not a criminal, he is also not a member of society. In fact, he is a fat, one-eyed drunk who lives with a cat and a “chinaman,” playing cards all day. The obvious message is that society, in order to protect itself, may have to rely upon slightly unsavory people who are not properly members of it--violent and “uncivilized” men who care much more about freedom, honor and justice than mere law and order.
Cogburn’s exceptional ability is revealed during a drunken rant, when he pulls his gun and blows away a hungry rat in the far corner of the room. Mattie hires him to catch the killer, Tom Chaney, but only in order to bring him back alive so that he can be properly tried. As a typical liberal, she wants this to be a police action, not a war. For his part, Cogburn has no interest whatsoever in the legal system or in bringing Chaney back alive. He is his own justice system--in fact, he represents justice as such, and will be just as happy to blow Chaney away and be done with it.
An interesting father-daughter dynamic develops between Mattie, who represents law, and Cogburn, who represents primordial, pre-civilized justice. At first, there is even a pronounced gender confusion in the tomboy Mattie, who has a brittle sort of compensatory pseudo-masculinity symbolized be a ridiculously oversized and impractical gun that is "all for show," like the French army.
The transformational moment occurs in the plot when Mattie is captured by Chaney. I forget how, but she somehow falls into a snake pit, which obviously represents the underworld, or hell. In short, she suddenly finds herself in a dangerous and deadly place that is completely outside the illusory safety of society. Rooster--and only Rooster--can save her, by descending into hell and snatching her out. Sort of like a psychoanalyst, only with guns.
Here again, the allegory is clear. Only a complete man, someone who has “one foot in hell”--who knows the territory--is capable of going into hell and battling the demons. Only ShrinkWrapped can save us!
After Rooster pulls Mattie out, he has to make a mad dash back to civilization in order to get her medical assistance. Symbolically she has died, and Rooster’s regenerative act will be to bring her back to society, where she will be healed and “reborn.” In so doing, he replaces her worldly father and becomes the true father of her higher self--a self that is no longer naive, but integrates abstract law with the dirty reality of worldly justice.
For his part, Rooster is reborn as a father instead of the drunken bachelor who lives on the outskirts of society. The conclusion of the film takes place in the family burial ground, where Mattie has set aside a plot for Rooster, right next to her’s. The brutal and uncivilized Rooster is not only integrated into society, but has a place in eternity as well. How fitting.
So, where does this leave us? What was the question? Oh yes, “Why have so many of us lost the will to fight and defend what we value or defend our beliefs? Is there a kind self-hatred at work?”
Yes, there is surely "white guilt" and self-hatred on the part of the Left, which is not even as mature as Mattie in the beginning of the film. At least she wants justice. If she were a leftist, the film would end with her realizing that Chaney had killed her father because he was poor and her father was wealthy. She would realize her own guilt, and campaign to prevent Chaney from being hanged.
At least Mattie, like some Democrats, wanted to bring the killer to justice. But as the film unfolds, her naiveté is replaced by hard-won insight into the human condition, specifically, into the implacable nature of human evil. In the end, she can only be saved by the man who lives outside the pleasant and comfortable illusions of society, who has one foot in both camps, who is basically good but who has no self-deception about the heart of darkness within man.
Rooster has no pretensions about human beings. Before you can have a civilization, before you can have a justice system, before you can have peace, you must have the will and the capacity for raw, barbaric violence. Because if you won’t do it, someone else will have to do it for you--or to you. You can be a spiritually decadent pacifist, but only because there is a freedom-loving, civilized barbarian with a mailed fist watching your wimpy liberal Euro ass. Behind every thousand or so feckless liberal castrati is a man with true grit. And we want terrorists and their enablers to scratch their heads and never stop asking, "why does this gritty bastard hate us so?"
We'll close things out with a little tune. Glen? Glen Campbell? You wanna come on up? Good deal! Boy howdy folks, Glen Campbell live on the One Cosmos Frontierland Bandstand in Branson Missouri!
One day, little girl,
The sadness will leave your face,
As soon as you've won the fight
To get justice done.
Someday little girl,
You'll wonder what life's about,
But other's have known,
Few battles are won alone.
So, you'll look around to find
Someone who's kind,
Someone who is fearless like you.
The pain of it
Will ease a bit
When you find a man with true grit
One day you will rise,
And you won't believe your eyes,
You'll wake up and see,
A world that is fine and free.
Though summer seems far away,
You'll find the sun one day