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The sidewalks of my dusty town are made of wood and blood, rising up above loose sands to ease the burden of walking armored from point A to B. Here where the sidewalk ends a man not long ago a boy stands vigil in a slapped-together shack; at the sound of heavy boots on wood he rises and renders greetings. Return that greeting with a smile and present your bona fides, nod and sincerely wish a good day as he waves you on.
On my town's streets and sidewalks armored cowboys stroll; gunslingers in the literal sense, inheritors of the tradition.
Elsewhere many have compared Iraq to Vietnam, or to other conflicts or places or times, but they miss the real analogy: the American west. You can even see it in our manner of dress, boots and vests and hats and loaded weapons. Here is violence and opportunity, the land of hard edges and harder lessons, and here the brave from all over the world can find fortune, while the timid seek what they can elsewhere. "Back East" as the cowboys said. Back in the big cities, in the softer places.
Back in the World.
Here too are Indians, in the fearsome cliché sense, but they too are invaders here and though they lack the courage of the legendary masters of the plains they have this in common: their fate is certain. But no reservation awaits those who struggle tooth and nail against the inevitable return of civilization to this desert landscape - they are seekers of paradise and many are willing to help them along. They are to be swept away, and how you feel about it matters about as much as how you feel about the return of high tide to your favorite shore.
Indeed we're far from paradise in this unforgiving land. Relentless and dangerous now, but as the danger subsides and the land is made safe for wimmen an' young'uns and men of less bold nature so too will opportunity fade and great rewards become elusive. Then inevitably a day will come when those who never saw it will nonetheless rewrite it all, denying good but naming bad guys on both sides, bemoaning the fall of the noble savage and pointing out the ruin that modern living brought to the land. The groundwork for those stories is being laid today; the wooden frames on which those versions of truth will rise are being slapped together now by writers in sequestered cloisters and their editors "back east".
And yes, then others will complain of the pacification, wail in futility that they were born too late, that the soft edges have come and brought the death of all adventure here. So be it. Truth is that I'd love to live to see that day. To tell my grandchildren tales of how it really was, and wonder would they think me the doddering old fool...
Speaking of days when the sidewalks of my town were made of wood and blood.
Sometimes the re-writes don't take long. Even before sundown on the day of the rule of the gun there were ruthless men made heroes of a sort; in dime novels, penny dreadfuls and Buffalo Bill's Wild West those who once claimed scalps as prizes paraded to cheers and jeers. Now a new face of evil appeals to that same something in that same certain segment of the population, offering confirmation that they were right to spurn opportunity and remain in some small comfort in distant shelter. These new icons of fear are in the ring at the 21st century Barnum's, and you can find them from where you are now with a couple twitches of your hand, courtesy of those 'hero-makers' in their distant towers back east.
Towers that stand as small reminders of greater things that once were there above the rivers of stone, paved like free streets everywhere with the blood of heroes and dreamers and fools.
Beautiful Baby!!! A real "think" piece.Posted by drjazzb at October 19, 2004 09:06 PM
Good piece but remind me again how exactly the Indians in the old west were "invaders"? Seems to me they were run out of the land they inhabited long before the white man.Posted by mike d. at October 19, 2004 09:21 PM
Slarrow, I hear you, I'm sure that was the intent, guess Iam just a literal reader and he does use the word "too" in that sentence twice inplying that the American Indian was an invader also.Posted by mike d. at October 20, 2004 04:17 PM
You are misreading the piece. The "Indians", in italics, are the foreign terrorists. They, too, are invaders, as we are.Posted by flenser at October 24, 2004 02:11 AM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(4) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)