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Date Posted: 18:02:11 05/14/17 Sun
Author: SWC
Subject: Western Values

I read a question on the Quora Digest asking why there aren't more TV shows with conservative values. A responder said that there are actually many and cited most of the spy or cop shows on TV and made a reference to the era when westerns dominated and classified them as "conservative TV".

I like to listen to the themes of the great TV and movie westerns on You-Tube and they are filled with comments about how great the old days were with all these westerns "before the liberals ruined it". (That particular comment came under a clip from "Shane".)

I can see where they are coming from. Firstly, westerns were popular when the baby boomers were growing up and so we, (I am one), remember them fondly and view them as coming from a simpler time, (although it was more complex for some people than others). The plots were simple. The good guys were the good guys and the bad guys were the bad guys. Men were men and women were women, (and those were all that was). The heroes were independent people who didn't debate with the villains. Instead they used their fists and their guns, (and, occasionally, their wits) to defeat them. The West itself was full of people who lived on their own, or with their families and took care of their own problems.

On the other hand, there's a lot about the West that could be described as "liberal". The nation had just fought a war to prove that all individuals had rights that needed to be respected and states could not limit those rights or allow certain individuals to own their fellow citizens. It established that the federal government was the guarantor of those rights and was supreme over the states in such matters.

The government also funded the opening of the west through the creation of railroads and the protections of it's interests and the lives of it's citizens through the army. People in the West, (and the East for that matter) were more independent than they are now but thought nothing of getting together for a barn raising or to build a schoolhouse or church. They knew how to work together. If someone needed help it was offered without question. Women got the vote in Wyoming in 1869, 50 eyars before they got it in the entire country.

Western heroes tended to be champions of the underdog and stood up to the villains to protect them. And who were the villains? Businessmen who 'owned the town", powerful ranchers, devious merchants who sold guns and whiskey to the Indians.Often a great alley was the editor of the local newspaper, a great believer in the first amendment and the power of the press.

The plot of Shane is interesting: a gruff ranchers who established his rancher before the government even extended that far resents its incursion into his life and the the small settlers who have invaded the land he claimed form the Indians. A friendly gunman comes by and helps one of the small families, heroically killing the top gunsel of the rancher. Is Shane a 'conservative' hero?

And what about all those heroic lawmen? They are representatives of the government, imposing the rule of law on people who wanted the freedom to do what they want- to whomever they wanted to do it to.

With rare exceptions, (such as "The Searchers), western heroes were tolerant of ethnic groups and respectful of Native Americans. It's the villains who would growl "The only good Indian is a dead Indian".

The western looks pretty liberal from that point of view.

Maybe the mistake it trying to shoehorn stories that were told generations ago into rigid concepts of contemporary politics. Maybe people have always lived under a set of values that were not derived from politics but just from common sense. Maybe western heroes did what they simply because it was the right thing to do. Maybe western values are just human values.

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