A MEMBER OF THE
Mentshen Of The Wild Frontier
The movie is a rejection of paci-
fism as an effective moral philoso-
phy. It worked for Ghandi and Dr.
Martin Luther King Jr. But they
were confronted by opponents who
were playing by the same rules and
were bound, ultimately, by a sense
of right and wrong. When their
brutality stepped beyond those
boundaries, they lost their claim to
legitimacy and, eventually, to
Liberty Valance recognizes no such
restraint. Appeals to decency are
meaningless. Reason for him comes
out of the barrel of a gun.
Unfortunately, we live in a world
ruled in many places by Valances.
Impervious to reason, impressed
only by force and regarding any
accommodation as cowardice.
I grew up at a time
when the Lone
Ranger and Roy
Rogers were the
highest exemplars of
right behavior. The
Reality Check first cowboy star in
the movies, Bronco
Billy Anderson, was Jewish, after all.
Maybe it stems from the admoni-
tion in Ethics of Our Fathers: "In a
I- place where there are no men, try to
be a man."
Isn't that what the greatest
Western movies are about? That is
I the imperative that runs through all
Gary Cooper in High Noon,
striding down the street to meet
his fate when everyone else in
town has failed in their civic and
Alan Ladd in Shane, the rov-
ing gunman who takes the part
of the weak homesteaders
JAMES STEWA R T 401
against the ruthless land baron
and his hired killer. John Wayne
in The Searchers, bound by the
demands of blood to rescue his
niece even though it seems
hopeless and takes years.
"The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance"
The Western hero who seems
two quite different heroes, played
most stereotypically Jewish to
and John Wayne.
me was Jimmy Stewart, in John
Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty
Valance. As with -most other bask
Ford was a fine storyteller, and
Western plots, he was trying to
often was saying more than what
establish a basis of law and decency
appeared on the screen. So there are
in a place that was ruled by force
all sorts of parables for today to be
and guns, a place without mentshen.
drawn from this film.
He was a man of learning, a
In the movie, Stewart survives
laawyer, come from the East to this
only because John Wayne, who had
place that was terrorized by the .
insisted this was not his fight,
thuggish Lee Marvin, as Liberty
shoots down Liberty from the shad-
Valance — certainly an odd choice
of names for a villain.
As a journalist, I have always
Stewart firmly believes in settling
treasured the ending. Years later,
disputes through appeals to reason
Stewart has been elected to Congress
and nonviolence, but he finally real-
and is famous as the man who shot
! izes that here he must stand up and
Liberty Valance. Only the local
fight. Of course, he would have no
newspaper publisher knows what
chance against the gunman, and he
understands that. But he must either
But as he tells a confidant, "When
confront him or lose all self-respect.
you have to choose between the facts
George Cantor, a West Bloomfield
and the legend, print the legend."
resident, is a native Detroiter and
Because the legend is often closer
longtime Detroit journalist. His e-mail
to the truth than the facts. ❑
address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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HARRY (HERSHEL) GARDEN
Appreciate and thank all our family and friends
For their prayers, contributions, cards and all
their kindness during Harry's recent surgery.