The old West is dead.
In fact, it died a long time ago. But the myth, yes the myth of the American West, well that myth lives on in the thousands of books, movies and songs that continue to carry it back and forth across the Mississippi, through the deserts of the Southwest and onto the beaches of the Western shores. The myth of the American Western is just that: a myth. But I’ll be damned if it isn’t one of the better myths to try and construct some semblance of a life around.
Just today I was walking around Fairhaven, the old port town that sleeps on the shores of Puget Sound just down the hill from my current residence, and saw a stone marker stating that a saloon was once located on what is now a grassy patch between an old pharmacy and a new bank. The saloon was apparently a place where at one time “vigilantes met”.And then this morning,
before I left the confines of my four-walled abode, I was reading about Meriwether Lewis and how he moved to and lived in Georgia during his younger years. This was around 1791 and at the time Georgia was considered “the frontier”. Can you believe it, Georgia a frontier? My god, I lived in Georgia for the better half of 15 years and all I stumbled upon were hastily built subdivisions, mega-malls and churches the size of those mega-malls (are they one in the same?). No frontier in sight.
The reality of the world I live in is this: I can traverse the same distance Lewis and Clark took over a year to slog across in less than 5 hours. No loss of life, no eating horses, no befriending of Native Americans is needed to make the East to West journey a success. Look how far we have come.But, and this is a very big but,
what have we lost in the “progress”? What of the mystery, the uncertainty, the utter madness that was the West? What have we given up in the name of “progress” and “comfort”? What of the wild and unpredictable life that once was America?
Well, let’s just say it’s been subdued. And by subdued I really mean to say it’s been crushed, destroyed, squelched. America today is made up of everything but the “wild West” it once was. You cannot saunter into any town across this landscape and expect there to be a warm welcome, if there’s a welcome at all. If there are jobs to be had they now require resumes and drug tests: your word is no longer good enough. Today while walking through Fairhaven
I met an older woman (late 70’s perhaps) who talked about this younger generation (my generation) and how they saw physical labor as something to be looked down upon, something “only Mexicans would do”. I understood what she was speaking of.
Somehow the people of America have become to good for the land, to good to labour upon it, to good to directly derive their living from it.But a day of reckoning is soon to come.
The people of this land will soon be subject to it. We are not above the laws of nature, as much as our recent technological “advances” would lead us to believe we are. Our lives are more in tune with our surroundings and the seasons than we may at this time realize. Culturally, we tend to think of our “rough and tumble” past to be just that: in the past. But the past has a funny way of repeating itself, especially for those who refuse to learn from it.