2016 might go down in history as the year we realized we were living in a global Wild West – an unforgiving environment where anarchy reigns in many territories, where laws and rules are flaunted by elites, and where danger is constantly lurking on the home front. But we’re at a disadvantage to those intrepid settlers who conquered the Old West in the 19th century. They had something we don’t: they had the cowboy.
There’s a reason cowboys were, for many years, a classic American symbol. They exemplified the best of American ideals: tough, solid, fearless and fair, they helped tame the wild country and make room for an expanding nation. They believed in law and order even out on the frontiers of civilization, and to preserve it, they fought when they had to. Above all, they showed what it meant to be a man.
Cowboys exemplified stoicism, courage, assertiveness, and aggression when the times called for it. Put together, those qualities are summoned up by a single word: “manliness.” Has America produced anyone better at exemplifying manliness than John Wayne, especially in his western roles? Whether he’s doggedly pursuing his niece’s captors in “The Searchers” or mounting a one-man charge against Robert Duvall’s gang of outlaws in “True Grit”, he showed a whole generation of young Americans what it meant to be tough, honest, and true.
Close behind John Wayne is Theodore Roosevelt – who in his day reminded Americans that you didn’t have to be born tough and burly to make yourself into a man. Teddy Roosevelt grew up in a life of wealth and privilege and was often sick as a child. Unsatisfied with his early political career in New York, he struck out for the west and lived among the cowboys. On those plains and around those campfires, he became a man. Some made fun of his spectacles, calling him “four eyes” – and he learned to fight back when he needed to. He tried to replicate that frontier fighting spirit when he recruited cowboys into his Rough Rider cavalry regiment – the same spirit he called upon when he charged up San Juan Hill.
Where is the manly spirit of the American West and San Juan Hill today? On life support, thanks to an endless campaign of feminization led by the political left and fueled by pop culture. “Manliness” is quickly becoming a foreign concept in America.