Good Guys and Bad Guys

I just came back from watching Open Range. I really enjoyed it. I’m a fan of old-style westerns and this film put all of the pieces together very well. If you like westerns, then I’m pretty sure you’ll like this one.

After the film, I started thinking about why Europeans often use “cowboy” as an insult when describing Americans in general, or George W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan in particular. I think a lot is revealed by how you react to cowboys as portrayed in westerns.

  • The world of the cowboy is a world of moral absolutes.
  • There are good guys and bad guys.
  • There are times when it’s wrong to wait for the authorities to handle things and some situations call for individual courage to defend principles.
  • Westerns often show a strongman bully who dominates large groups of townspeople who are afraid to stand up to him.

Yes, I can understand why many people don’t like the cowboy. They imagine that the world of the cowboy is a simplistic fantasy, and the real world is never like that.

Well, the real world is like that. Ironically, pretending that this isn’t the case is a simplistic fantasy. Some problems just cannot be solved by resolutions and committees. Yes, it’s good to explore all options, but sometimes the good guys just have to fight the bad guys.

We need cowboys.


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