Hollywood has been feeding us romanticized history ever since Birth of a Nation splattered across the silver screen in 1915.
Romanticized history is a lie.
People will always believe lies that reinforce their worldview.
Hollywood feeds us romanticized history because we love it, and the fictions we love best are those heroic stories of pioneers and settlers and cowboys during the years of America’s westward expansion.
John Wayne was a powerful icon of rugged individualism for two generations of American men. He was self-reliant and manly and brave, the living embodiment of maximum masculinity. There was no woman in distress he could not save, no wilderness he could not tame, no fight he could not win.
His real name was Marion Morrison and he grew up in Southern California. According to WIKIPEDIA, “He lost a football scholarship to the University of Southern California as a result of a bodysurfing accident and began working for the Fox Film Corporation…. It was John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939) that made Wayne a mainstream star, and he starred in 142 motion pictures altogether. According to one biographer, ‘John Wayne personified for millions the nation’s frontier heritage.’”
The real-world Americans who traveled westward in the hope of finding a better life were, for the most part, poor people with nothing to lose. With few tools and no resources, they improvised as best they could. They endured painful hunger, parching thirst, desperate cold, raging disease and the untimely death of people they loved.
We romanticize these struggling families of an earlier century and call them “self-reliant, rugged individuals.” We imagine them as strong, beautiful characters in a John Wayne movie.
Here is my question: When you scrape the Hollywood glitter off these people and see them real, was their resourcefulness an expression of exuberant confidence, or was it a product of their abject desperation?
Many of you sympathized with the millions of us Texans who shivered in our homes for several days at below-freezing temperatures with no heat, no light, no water and no toilets.
I drilled numerous yellow holes in the snow.
No electricity means no hot meals, and in southern states like Texas, icy streets mean no deliveries, no fire trucks, no ambulances, and no police. Even the grocery stores were closed.
The hospital nearest our home was evacuated.
When Pennie and I had been without water for 3 days, the ex-governor who presided over the deregulation of energy in Texas (and dismantled the regulations that would have insured the consistent delivery of water and electricity in our state,) called a press conference to proudly announce that Texans would gladly, “be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business.”
Now there is a man who has watched one-too-many John Wayne movies.
And then there is the senator from Texas who decided that, “to be a good Dad,” he was going to hop on a jet and find some comfort at The Four Seasons in sunny Cancun, Mexico. But I can make room for that. I don’t really blame him for it. If I wasn’t concerned about Covid, I might have done it myself.
The “John Wayne” part of that story is that he flew to Cancun with a mask on his face displaying the image of an old Texas flag from our pre-statehood years. That flag shows the star of Texas with a big cannon and the words, “Come and Take It.”
In 1835, when European settlers revolted against the government of Mexico, they got control of a cannon in a border town, then flew a flag with a drawing of that cannon and added the words, “Come and Take it.”
Basically, they were just flipping the bird to the Mexicans.
But why – 186 years later – would a person flaunt a symbol that insults Mexicans while escaping TO MEXICO to get away from 3rd world conditions back home?
One-too-many John Wayne movies, that’s why.
Born in Texas and raised in the dangerous part of an Oklahoma town, I am no stranger to violence. My willingness to embrace it when it presents itself is alarming to most of my friends. So please don’t think you can write me off as an effete little man who needs to be sheltered from the harsh realities of life.
I have all this on my mind today because of a quote in the February 15th Monday Morning Memo from John McCain, a man who was everything Marion Morrison pretended to be.
“War is awful. Nothing, not the valor with which it is fought nor the nobility of the cause it serves, can glorify war. War is wretched beyond description and only a fool or a fraud could sentimentalize its cruel reality. Whatever is won in war, it is loss the veteran remembers.” – John McCain
McCain’s statement has been rattling around in my head for the past two weeks. I agree with him completely; there is nothing glorious, nothing honorable, nothing virtuous about hardship, pain, and suffering. “Only a fool or a fraud could sentimentalize its cruel reality.”
Men who have been engaged in face-to-face, mortal combat almost never spout tough-guy platitudes. They leave the swaggering talk to those posturing, posing men who have watched one-too-many John Wayne movies.
The landing of the Perseverance rover on Mars has reignited the public’s interest in space exploration and associated business opportunities. Christine Nobbe, an educator and a space enthusiast, has been dreaming about conducting classes on the moon or on Mars her whole life. When roving reporter Rotbart caught up with Christine in September 2018, the two of them discussed the coming age of entrepreneurs in space and the possibilities for small businesses to participate in the push to the stars. Listen in as two space buffs explore out-of-this-world business opportunities. MondayMorningRadio.com