“Eyes Wide Open”, Blog by Kristin Matheny- #2 “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” 1/1/2012
“Eyes Wide Open” by Kristin Matheny
“My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys”
My all-time favorite television show is “The Twilight Zone”, and one of my all-time favorite episodes is kind of a ‘hidden gem’, as it’s not as well-known as some of the other, more famous episodes. The hidden gem of an episode that I’m referring to is titled “I Am the Night- Color Me Black”. I remember seeing it as a kid, but I guess it holds more meaning for me now that I’m an adult.
For those of you that aren’t familiar with the episode, I’ll give you a brief synopsis. A man named Jagger is wrongfully convicted of murder, even though most of the people in his small, nameless town (presumably somewhere in the Midwest) know that he killed an intolerant bigot in utter self-defense. He’s sentenced to a hanging, and the townspeople, who salivate at the thought of morbidly watching this poor innocent fellow meet his Maker at the end of a noose, cheer on the death. Even the sheriff looks on in disgust, knowing that his moral objections to the hanging mean nothing in light of a town full of immoral lunatics who more closely resemble Ancient Roman gladiator match attendees than quaint, rural citizens.
Anyway, on the morning of the hanging, the whole town awakes to complete, pitch black skies. Everything is dark, the sun never rises. As the minutes and hours tick by, there is no sign of light. The radio and newspapers report that the town is the only place in the whole world that remains a “dark spot”. Either way, the hanging ultimately occurs, and a pastor (who happens to be a black man, very symbolic for a TV episode from 1964) tells the townspeople, who stand in awe of Jagger’s lifeless body dangling from a rope, that it’s no wonder they’re plunged into darkness, that they’ve managed to “kill the sunshine” in effect with this gross display of immorality and wrongdoing. Then, the town becomes even darker (if that’s possible) and the radio reports that other towns around the world are experiencing similar “dark spots” on that day- Dallas, Birmingham, Berlin, North Vietnam.
Put into context, it’s pretty obvious what the whole episode is an allegory of- and it’s familiar to most of us why Rod Serling, who wrote the episode himself, purposefully chose those sites and those symbols. I read in a “Twilight Zone” Watcher’s Guide that Rod Serling wrote the script as a personal reaction to the John F. Kennedy assassination, which was still very fresh in the minds of Americans in 1964. It’s poignant, and it’s heartfelt.
Now, I was not around in 1964- I was born 18 years later- but in 2011, I realize that the symbolism is as fresh and as powerful as it must have been for viewers back then.
What is being “hanged” nowadays by ravenous, salivating beasts isn’t John F. Kennedy. Racism, at least as it existed back then, has become a bittersweet page in history (though, like the Law of Matter, racism “can never be created, nor destroyed”…it just sort of ‘changes shape’). What happened in North Vietnam and Berlin has been forgotten by many (though, like racism, that also just kind of ‘changes shape’). Do you see where I’m going with this? Isn’t it obvious? Back in 1964, so much was changing, so quickly…some of it good, some of it bad. My parents talk about my grandparents saving up to buy homes in the suburbs, start businesses. My Dad tells me about how he spent afternoons watching John Wayne movies with his father, how he loved cowboys and old-time westerns.
Almost fifty years later, here we are in debt up to our eyeballs, with a President and a boatload of liberal politicians that cannot accept that the government was designed to be limited and scarce. These upholders of a “nanny state” feel that financial solvency for Americans can be achieved through loans, welfare checks, handouts…whatever. There is no more “saving up”, or “starting” of anything, at least not for them.
Both of my grandfathers are now gone- God rest their souls- but I can’t help but wonder what in the hell they’d think if they saw this.
What died at the end of a noose is not a president, or a civil rights leader, or decency even…it’s everything that came after. It’s everything that people like my grandparents held on to, only to have it buried along with them. It’s hard work, dedication, patience, toughness. It’s the “American Dream”.
I want to believe that it still exists. Does it? I have a one year-old son whose nursery and playroom I’ve plastered with the old covers of “western” comic book covers that I found on eBay. Cowboy stars of the 1940s and 1950s- Tom Mix, Will Rogers- they live in wooden frames on his walls. I watched “The Searchers” with him the other day, bouncing him on my lap like a mini cowboy atop a horse. He giggled and laughed, loving every minute. He recently had a “western rodeo” birthday bash. People always ask why I chose cowboys as his theme, rather than Elmo or zoo animals. I guess I’ve always had a thing for cowboys (queue the photos of Ronald Reagan riding around his California ranch with the white hat on)! Cowboys are just sort of my attempt to provide him with some kid-friendly frame of reference. Grit, morality, “good triumphing over evil”. The American Spirit lived in our romanticized notions of cowboys, and I can’t help but hope that it will, somehow, “rub off” on my boy. I try to teach him consequences, responsibility, motivation, persistence…as I know we all do, as Tea Partiers and as believers in this forgotten notion of the “American Dream” and what is required to achieve it.
We teach our kids these things because we know no one else will. They sure aren’t going to learn it at school (and this is coming from a veteran public school teacher). They aren’t going to learn it from their friends, or their friends’ parents…certainly not from “trusted media sources” (ha!). Do you ever feel like, as parents (or grandparents, or simply people who care about future generations) that we are “riding the range”, lonely and barren, looking for something we lost long ago? We try to embody that spirit- that DREAM- of America, the attainable only through perseverance and heart. I show up to Tea Party meetings feeling a little less alone, but I know that it’s not enough. Somewhere between “The Greatest Generation”, my parents’ generation, my generation, THIS generation…we got lost in the shuffle, silenced by angry, salivating townspeople (many of whom are, as we speak, in Washington…and in the White House), swinging nooses and cheering our deaths…and the death of our American Dream.
Like I said, I don’t see it, but I know it has to be there. I have FAITH that the American Dream, the story of success as it was told by my family before me (“The Dreams From MY Fathers”, Mr. Obama!) is hidden behind this disgusting wall of liberal lies, semi-Socialism, and easy-way-out fairness. It seems silly to teach a toddler to be a “buckaroo”, probably as silly as it seems to some of these lefties to teach our children things like accountability and patriotism. But it’s all I’ve got. It’s all he’s got. It’s hidden from view, but I just know that if I can get my son to realize his inner “cowboy”, if I can get him to honor success, and to become a God-fearing defender of his country and its original ideals, there is hope for our future.
I’d like to think that our American Dream is not hanging on a rope, but is staring death in the face with fearless conviction. Those psycho deathmongers just demand its demise, but it will not falter. It strides away in a white hat, as they stand aghast, as the rest of us cheer. We’ll never wake to a morning plunged into darkness. The sun will rise, and will rise every morning.
It’ll take a few elections, a few exceptional patriots, some courage on our parts as grass roots organizers, but we can ensure a happy ending.
(Happy 2012, everyone. Our mission is clear…)