Sunday, March 4, 2012

Insights Lost

There is a very good movie, starring James Stewart, about how this country was made: “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” (1962).
Gene Pitney had a hit with a related song:

From the lyrics:

            From out of the East, a Stranger came -- a lawbook in his hand;  :  a Man    (!);
            the kind of a  Man    the West would need,  to tame a  troubled    Land…  (!)

And it struck me:  Betcha nine-tenths of the Americans alive now  have no idea what this really means.

What it means is:  for there to even be an America,
an easeful America      from the cradle of whose comforts
we can look languidly down   upon the dustybloody pre-MirandaRights antics of our ancestors,
there had to be …..   Guys like that.

And note -- this not some sentimental glorification of Cowboy Ways -- quite the contrary!
A man from the East, with a lawbook in his hand (plus, necessarily,  
a gun to back it up…)

Now, I’ve been listening  to “Gunsmoke”  on the radio,
old broadcasts from the 40’s  and the pre-Ike fifties:
and it’s the same deal.
No romancing of any of it, really.
Marshall Dillon’s no   Sy Stallone/Charles Bronson jerk;
he does what he has to do,
and mostly hates it.
The job   sucks.  You can feel his weariness
All those    cowpokes and the cattle-rustlers and the bustling bars,
it is  here  not    picturesque:  it’s raw material,
for what is now known as “nation-building”,
but what    back then    was known as   :
building a nation

So while the guys  had to do
things  not in accordance with  the latest pronouncements
of the ACLU,  or the Diversity Dean at Vasser,
that’s what they did,   Right or Wrong,  John;
that’s what went down,

while the nation built up…

-- -- --  Live with it.


Liberty Valance -- note the name.   And yet “the bravest in the West”, the song says, was not that swaggering gunslinger, but a man of law.

[For Murphy’s take on Liberty in our own time, click here.]

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