Monday, April 20, 2009

Answering The Duke


In recent months, I've had this one thought that keeps creeping into my mind. (And yes, I have others in between, smartasses.) If John Wayne--the Duke, Cowboy of Cowboys--somehow returned among the living, he would probably have a lot of questions. Chiefly (to my mind, anyway), I think he would ask:

"What the HELL happened here?"

Now, while the Duke would no doubt be awed by laptop computers, plasma TVs and the iPhone, the above question would not be in reference to all of the marvelous technological advances that have appeared since his death in 1979. This question is about bigger, more fundamental things--namely, the overall social underpinnings of the United States, the country he so loved. How would you answer his query? My answer goes something like this.

Well, sir, as you know, when you left us in 1979, the country was just starting to settle down and regain its footing after two very contentious, tumultuous decades. The ripples from the social and political upheaval that marked those times are being felt to this day, with ramifications both good and bad.

One of these is a phenomenon that some have dubbed, "the femenization of America." Now, by "femeniztion," I don't mean men are all running around dressed in drag. Well, okay, some are, but those folks were doing that already behind closed doors. I am referring to our overall values as a nation, a landmark shift in the American cultural zeitgeist toward the feminine mindset.

Let me be the first to say that I don't view this as an entirely bad thing, not by a long shot. For one thing, a man in Hollywood can be named Marion, and no one would bat an eyelash. Maybe this is 20/20 hindsight, but men needed a little bit of softening around the edges. We have learned to listen better (a little), value our partners more outside of the home and the bedroom, and express ourselves with something other than our fists. I think this is a good thing, I think it has made the country stronger, and as the man who once said, "I won't be wronged, I won't be insulted, and I won't be laid a hand on. I don't do these things to other people, and I require the same from them," I think you might agree.

Not all of these changes have been positive, however. In my opinion, adopting a more femenized mindset has also been downright detrimental to our values and our strength as a nation. Compassion has become more important than justice. Feelings have become more important than truth. Safety has become more important than fun. Preserving fairness has become more important than achieving results. Notions of right and wrong, good and bad, have been supplanted by the overriding mandate to make nice and get along with others.

The foreseeable consequences of this flawed thinking are self-evident. A social fabric woven of such defective thinking is about as stable and durable as a wet paper towel. Now that you've returned to us, Mr. Wayne, maybe you can encourage the cultural pendulum to swing the other direction a bit--enough to shake us out of this milieu of muddled thinking, but not so far that we lose the good that we've done. If anyone can do it, sir, it's you.

How would YOU answer the Duke's question?

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