Over the past couple of weeks I have been indulging the warrior sentiment. The last book I finished was the new SEAL Team Six memoir of Wasdin from Georgia. Just before that was the extraordinary King of the Vagabonds and now I'm a third way through the latest Tom Clancy. Last night I watched True Grit. All of this is making me wonder what the point of feminism is in our civilization.
True Grit has one of the most extraordinary characters I've seen, Mattie Ross a fourteen year old girl out to avenge the murder of her father. Smart as a whip, crafty and headstrong she is a gal of grit herself. But in each of her bold actions in the Wild West, there is a power behind her words that come indirectly from the barrel of a gun. She threatens with a lawyer. She employs with money. She understands her claims. True Grit does a great deal of justice to the genre of the Western which, I think my generation never learned. We have outsourced the word of the warrior to Bruce Lee and his descendants, the Kung Fu film. Steven Segal never made it. Jet Li did. And so what we mistake for something Asian, courage, honor and determination is something we had in Westerns all along. I didn't quite know it until I started watching the best John Wayne films, the finest being Red River, and in this, the Coen Brothers remake, the workings of honor and deceit are sparkling.
Mattie Ross was not made for the trail, nor for hunting down fugitives in Indian territory. She was made for exemplifying and enforcing those edifications our civilization and our human nature demands. Sobriety, honesty, thrift, industry.
We have made another mistake. That is to call the tyrannical forces that array to stifle our freedoms in masculine terminology. Our enemy is not Big Brother, but Big Mother. In every way that we might conceive as artfully as the Coen Brothers have presented, a woman child leading two bickering bounty hunters on a mission of deadly revenge, we are reminded of the tyranny of order, logic and justice which is so often pursued against our lazy wills. There is no romance in it. It is as searingly compelling as the demand of a child for protection against monsters.
There is something useful in us, I suspect, that resists duty. I am reminded of Aaron from Titus Andronicus. The world is upside down often enough that slacking is equally often the best protector of our souls. Moral discipline is exhausting and its rewards are inconsistent. We too should be so inconsistent so as not to grow completely weary of seeking those rewards.
It has been said that a soldier's experience of war can be accurately characterized as long periods of interminable boredom interspersed with moments of extreme terror. That sounds about right. And so too it is not romantic. We have been inundated with myths of warrior mentalities - of constant vigilance. Let us put that myth to bed. There is nothing for it. Constant vigilance is the enemy. It is paranoia. It is Big Mother.
Instead let us be the periodically brilliant but generally sated lion. Let us enjoy our rest and let things go to shit while we snooze. We'll wake up and clean up, but now we relent. I think it is more manly.
I'm on vacation this week.