Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Last Cowboy in Paris

“Don’t worry about me, I’m an American. Have gun, will travel.”
–Lady Grantham "Downton Abbey"

Apparently Americans travel pretty well these days, with or without guns.

I will admit that, I, along with the rest of the country, swelled up more than a tiny bit with pride when the news broke about “3 U.S. Marines” stopping a terror attack on a French train. Later, as the press finally bothered to sort out who they actually were, the story changed.  

 The heroes were composed of a group of three friends, only 2 of whom had military backgrounds, all dressed in civilian clothing: a U.S.A.F. medical technologist, an Army national guardsman from Oregon, and a civilian college student.  It struck me as odd as to why they presumed the heroes to be marines in the first place, particularly since no one was wearing a uniform of any kind.  It should be noted that since so few reporters these days, have ever served in the military, most would probably not know the difference between a soldier, sailor, airmen or marine if they were standing before them in full dress uniform.  Regardless, getting the story right has never been much of priority for the press, and now it seems, inventing the stories is pretty much standard procedure.

My guess, is that the press presumed that only a marine would have the guts, as well the capability, of taking down an armed assailant.  I am a big fan of the U.S. Marine Corps and hold a soft spot in my heart for all of them.  Marines are legendary for being among the most highly skilled, dedicated and selfless warriors and quite deservedly so, but they hold no monopoly on courage.   

Furthermore, having  had combat training is no guarantee of heroism (though of course it helps).  I can tell you first hand, that Air Force basic training does not entail any combat training other than shooting an M16 at a target for qualification.

Unlike the press, I believe that many, if not most of us, have the capacity to take the same sort of courageous action, with or without specialized training.  The instinct to protect is embedded in the human psyche.  It is further enhanced by a society that values and encourages a spirit of independent thought and action. 

Skarlatos, one of the three Americans, when interviewed, mentioned that their training “kicked in after the struggle”.  What mattered, what came first, was the instinct to act. 

So why was it, that only the 3 Americans on that train took immediate action? (There were 2 Europeans who did pitch in once the terrorist was engaged-but I am focused here on the Americans because they were the first to immediately and reflexively respond)

Admitting my bias, I’d like to think it is a uniquely American trait, but it is more specific than that.   It was “cowboy”. 

A hundred years ago, the myth of the American Cowboy as an archetype was acclaimed; a bit rough around the edges and coarse, yes, but free from the societal constraints that governed the lives of the aristocracy. The independent spirit, resilience and self reliance, was admired by many Europeans, and held in high regard. 

Even the dialogue from a Downton Abbey episode manages to convey the international admiration of the period:

After Mary Crawley breaks her engagement to a cruel, malicious fiancé, her father, Lord Grantham consoles her and says, “I want a good man for you, a brave man. Go find a cowboy in the Middle West and bring him back to shake us up a bit.”

These days, the spirit of the American cowboy is often mocked around the world, portrayed as a boorish, unintelligent dinosaur, somehow out of step with modern values.  

This does not surprise me.

One does not have to look far back in history to find the negative, cartoon caricatures of George Bush or Ronald Reagan- both often portrayed as Neanderthals or chimps wearing cowboy hats. 

An increasingly politically correct, European culture has most people convinced that, outsourcing responsibility for our personal safety and security to governmental authorities, is the more noble and prudent thing to do. 

Standing up and fighting back is branded as being brutish or uncultured; that to cower and beg for mercy from our adversaries is somehow morally superior and infinitely more civilized.

Remember the images of the Charlie Hebdo attacks?  

Someone please explain to me what was noble or civilized about the images of that unarmed police officer, begging in vain for his life?

Is it any wonder that when a situation does arise, they tremble in fear?  

People that do not depend on the collective, or rely on the presumption that it is someone else’s job to save them, tend to act, rather than wait to be told what to do in any given situation.

Sadly, our current cultural elites look to Europe as a fountain of inspiration.  They work tirelessly to have us emulate into law, these so called "progressive" and presumably enlightened, European ideals, forgetting the fact that the majority of our current population consists of the descendants of people who fled that continent, in bold rejection of its principles.

Today's progressives bear the shameful legacy of the Berlin coffeehouse intellectuals of the 1930's. The same ones who discounted and dismissed the growing menace of the Nazi's rise to power, because in their collective minds, "Germany, was much too civilized for any of that nonsense."

I now see our values under a similar sort of attack by hysterical, pearl-clutching urbanites who swoon at the mere mention of the word “gun”.  If these people have their way, we would all be cast into the fantasy world of their imaginings-that happy place where we can always count on a terrorist's love of humanity to keep us from harm.

Thankfully, not everyone is buying that message. 

Incidents like the one that took place on that Paris train, restore my faith in America, and more importantly, my faith that the cowboy spirit still lives on in each of us.


Scott Gordon said...

yippee ki-yay MF!!!

Dalai said...

Couldn't have said it better than Scott! WELL STATED, even more so than usual!!!!

Virginia Branson said...

WOW!! Thank you... What Scott said!

bill said...

Well said Stacey! I have never been able to put my finger on what drives that spirit in Americans that makes us want to stand up and fight but I see it now...the cowboy spirit, I like that.

Scott Gordon said...

I think the feeling of "cowboy" comes from a deep love of country, independence and freedom. It is what differentiates us from the rest of the world who would rather be taken care than take care of themselves.

Roger Chylla said...

Yes when some advances are taken too far they generate imbalance in our psyche. I think we are all glad that we have dedicated law enforment to respond to most incidents and protect us from aggression but that should not inhibit our instincts to respond aggressively to immediate dangers. Law enforcement cannot be everywhere at every time. Long live the Cowboy instinct!

Packer said...

Each generation was taught to be self reliant, each generation was taught to lend a hand. Stand up for yourself and bend down to pick up your fallen neighbor was American. We got off that road when we stopped emphasizing self reliance.

Larry Wilkes said...

Well done, Stacey, I think you hit the nail on the head! Good comments as well.