Saturday, July 12, 2008

"That's my steak, Valence."

I popped my copy of “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence” into the DVD today to maintain my fluency in the classic western. There are about five movies every guy needs to be fluent in or else it’s absolutely impossible for him to function as a real guy.

They are “Animal House,” “Cool Hand Luke,” "Slap Shot," “The Naked Gun,” and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence.”

Guys need to know all the dialogue and be able to instantly recite it right back to another real guy any time one us blurts out some classic line.

With “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence,” every real guy, for instance, needs to know to affect a John Wayne pose and say through gritted teeth, “I said you Liberty. You pick it up,” after I say “That’s my steak, Valence.”

For any non-guy readers who’ve wandered onto this blog and for the maybe two women who read it for, I guess, purely anthropological reasons, the 1962 movie’s about a terrible outlaw (Lee Marvin as Liberty Valence) who terrorizes the town of Shinbone and is brought to lethal justice by a good man with a law book (Jimmy Stewart) and a good man with a gun (John Wayne).

A perfect and timely analogy is Osama bin Laden in the villainous role and in the role of the heroic good guys is, well, uh, let’s see . . . hmmm.

We’re nearing the seventh anniversary of our hunt for one of the world’s most wanted men. We’re engaged in two expensive wars that seem endless. And here on the homefront, we stand united.

Not about war politics. No. I’m talking about security lines at the airports.

For all the usual reasons, I’ve been a rabid George Bush hater for about five years now. But what angers me most is the guy who likes to cast himself in the John Wayne cowboy role is how he’s absolutely sapped our national swagger. It’s because of him we’ve gone through the last seven years in a crouch.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” is a defining clarion call from FDR. He said that, interestingly enough, not in response to the threat of global tyranny from Japan and Hitler, but in a 1932 response to the economic tumult of the Great Depression.

In fact, it’s interesting to read what he said just before and after that oratorical diamond. Here it is:

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”

Bush serenely believes history will vindicate the decisions many of us believe were recklessly stupid, (and that's about everything he's done since turning away from bin Laden and Afghanistan). I doubt it, but who knows?

But of this, I’m certain: when historians remember his presidency, the words used to punctuate his legacy will be along the lines of, “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”

We have let a malicious band of terrorists shut down Shinbone.

I’m sick and tired of being afraid. I’m tired of stifling my smartass wisecracks for fear that the grouchy TSA lady will deem me subversive enough for hassling. I’m tried of hearing tales of new mothers being asked to guzzle their breast milk. I’m tired of an ineffectual leader who’s let one man make us all feel so puny.

At this point I’m thinking of starting a petition to out-source the job of catching bin Laden -- not to Afghans or Pakistanies whose allegiances may be tainted -- but to the new can-do men strutting around in the world: The armed coffee-farmers serving in the Colombian Army.

They pulled off one of the most daring rescues of all time, called Operation Jacques (huh? Jacques?). Without any bloodshed, they snatched back kidnapped senator Ingrid Betancourt and a team of American hostages from deep in the impenetrable jungles.

I’d bet that merry band wouldn’t have any trouble finding Osama bin Laden.

I wish somebody could.

In the meantime, I’m going to watch “Hot Fuzz.” I predict it’ll soon join the pantheon of classic guy movies and all us real guys are going to need to be well-versed in the dialogue. From the witty makers of “Shaun of the Dead,” it’s about one by-the-book cop and one bumbling incompetent who are out to rid a small English town of evil doers.

In this case, the incompetent bumbler actually helps bring the bad guys to justice.

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