Gather around the campfire as Snake Bloomstrand reminds us that some old-fashioned cowboy heroism can help us run today’s black hats out of town.
My generation grew up under the tutelage of the great Cowboys. Roy Rogers, Matt Dillon and the Lone Ranger showed up in our living rooms each week and offered to teach us what it looked like to be virtuous.
For those who missed the age of the Cowboy heroes, they became role models for countless children. They taught us about courage and discernment and showed us how to take a stand for all the right reasons.
For the cynics among us I must add, yes, they were just actors following a carefully crafted script, but don’t be too quick to discard their message. The Cowboys weekly passion plays did inspire and educate. They stood for higher principles in a world of frontier lawlessness, pulled a moral compass out of their saddlebag and saved the day.
Today’s desperadoes tend to hypnotize, using video screens streaming a river of “data” wider than the Rio Grande. We feel confused or even paralyzed in the face of this onslaught, infected with cynicism instead of feeling inspired while villains busy themselves slinging mud for a global audience.
Did the hero ride away into the sunset?
I remember a time when saving the widow’s ranch was simply the right thing to do. I’m fed up with greedy self-centered villains.
I’ve spent too long riding the bus through Gotham with the Joker at the wheel. I stare out the window as distress and decline crawl by. I grow hopeless, and suspicious. Today’s popular culture would have me believe zombies or vampires wait at every bus stop, ready to push on board and slide in next to me.
The thought of plucking a hero out of this mess is slim. Get off the bus with me. Say goodbye to the erratic driving of countless lousy actors, and brush Gotham’s grime off your jeans.
A war is underway. The fight for survival will always be mankind’s primary occupation. This war began with threats from nature, wild beasts, or a hostile environment. Today, the threat comes largely from bad actors. Regardless of your political leaning, education, or social status, it’s hard to ignore the challenges laid daily at our feet, complicated challenges threatening the very survival of our children. I’m reluctant to set a table of fear. Too many are currently serving up that meal. I believe its time to set a table for virtue.
Dream on you might say. The armory contains little but empty shelves. The principles guiding your childhood hero’s have rusted away, turned to dust. Where will we find today’s hero? Will my cynicism keep me from recognizing a hero if I encounter one?
The answer is found in our willingness to become the hero instead of endlessly anticipating the arrival of a man in a white hat. The definition of a hero is: “Capable of courage and integrity in the face of adversity, and in service to the greater good.
Certainly we all are capable of courage and integrity. The only one who has a genuine stake in your virtuosity is looking back at you from the mirror.
Skeptical? Of course, you would be. “Me? A hero?” you ask.
I’m distressed to bring you this news. But I can’t see another way to clean up Gotham. It’s up to us, all of us! “For the good of all.” Does mean, for the good of all!
The Cowboys did leave behind a code of conduct, intended to help construct a virtuous life. As children we memorized this code, along with the Scout’s code, and a dozen other wise codes of behavior.
Gene Autry’s Code of Honor
1. A cowboy never takes unfair advantage—even of an enemy.
2. A cowboy never betrays a trust. He never goes back on his word.
3. A cowboy always tells the truth.
4. A cowboy is kind and gentle to small children, old folks, and animals.
5. A cowboy is free from racial and religious intolerances.
6. A cowboy is always helpful when someone is in trouble
7. A cowboy is always a good worker.
9. A cowboy is clean about his person in thought, word, and deed.
10. A cowboy is a patriot.
In today’s world even the Cowboy code seems beyond of the ability or willingness of our culture’s prominent players. True heroes are rare, and poor actors are numerous. The Cowboys took a stand for higher principles in a world of frontier lawlessness. “Frontier lawlessness?” I’d say we’ve suffered long enough. Our expectations repeatedly dashed by villains and unprincipled actors.
My generation wandered a considerable distance from our Cowboy mentors. We neglected the “Code,” and were willing to accept avarice as the status quo.
I recently discovered some wise advice about how a social narrative shifts.
“Offer a better story.”
I suggest a story where stewardship and virtue are valued above deceit and manipulation, where excuses are met with accountability, and generosity becomes more common than greed, a story where men and women consider the well being of future generations simply because it’s right to do so. Reject the story written for villains; insist on a story written for heroes, our children’s wellbeing is at stake.
So, saddle up!
We are the men and women we have been waiting for. Mankind is depending on us. Really! The stakes are that high and always will be. The only hero that matters is the one you greet each morning in the mirror.
Photo: Moyan Brenn / flickr