Posts Tagged ‘cowboy’

National Myths

13 October 2011

Dear J-

Censorship in America is a funny thing; I remember the spate of horror movies in the 80s where violence wasn’t necessarily condoned but each butcher-like splatter of gore was dissected and celebrated in magazines like Fangoria while mentions of sex were fairly taboo: Angel Heart nearly earned the kiss-of-death X rating just from the notoriety of a Cosby Kid in a sex scene. As a nation we’re fixated on Puritan notions of sex (keep the dirty bits under covers) and romantic vigilante notions of violence (who else could have come up with Batman, a character who uses his wealth to exact revenge on criminals?).

So it’s perhaps not surprising to keep hearing about the mythological silent stoic cowboy, refugee from tall tales and romanticized views of the West, Spartan in his lifestyle, ascetic ini his celibacy, and of course deadly with a gun at thousands of yards. That’s the myth we keep telling ourselves is true. Whole legions of men grow up steeped in cowboy culture, calling out flinty self-reliance and an implacable acceptance of no assistance. My way. No help. My wits against nature/the government/cattle rustlers/Indians/buffalo/the elements.

Thing is that we take all kinds of help from everywhere. There are whole mega-retail palaces devoted to the art of catching and killing animals for sport, not sustenance and serious survival; despite the paranoia that seems to infect the Boy Scout-trained always-be-prepared — zombie holocaust, thermonuclear war, apocalyptic governmental collapse, chaos and anarchy — I wonder how much of it is fueled by our national mythologies and reinforcement of those mores through media.



Crying Aloud

25 September 2008

Dear J-

Growing up I used to cry a lot; now, as theVet likes to put it, in my second adolescence as a teenage girl (I enjoy those shows such as, say, Gossip Girl and The O.C.), I only get suspiciously weepy at things like sappy movies (“momma, how come the fox can’t be friends with the hound any more?”) and books.  But yeah, growing up, usually daily, I’d find myself mad or sad enough to get leaky-eyed.  Such is the lot of a younger sibling — I have privately referred to it, upon seeing little boys crying, as LBD, Little Brother Disease.

It used to be pretty easy to get me spun up, too; emotions on the sleeve and all, no secrets spilled to see exactly the kind of reaction that folks wanted.  I took everything seriously and personally; every challenge a chasm, every criticism a cut.  You learn to let these things go after a while, but the change is gradual, and I still find my temper driving me more often than I’d like.  I smile in a mild way because the things I contemplate — the horrible actions just waiting for provocation — could touch off in an instant.

The things I learn, the skills I acquire, the training and discipline all seem so insignificant compared with the social masks we slip on every day.  They are incredibly subtle and nuanced; we place such stock in maintaining a friendly yet aloof persona (there’s the lonesome cowboy myth of the West again) with strangers and believe that familiarity brings such understanding and sympathy that we start to take those closest to us for granted.  Brusquely.  It’s no excuse, it’s no  reason, but how can we be so beastly to each other, and especially to our friends and families?  I’m still learning, ever evolving towards serenity and isolating my actions from my stimuli, but some days it’s so difficult, you know?