Okay attempt

Gary Cooper Damned Us All

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September 27, 2019 at 10:10am
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Via Gizmodo's U.S. Military Issues Warning to Troops About Incel Violence at Joker Screenings: "[O]fficials claimed that incels '...idolize the Joker character... admiring his depiction as a man who must pretend to be happy, but eventually fights back against bullies.'"

Perched in his overstuffed and shredded armchair, bent cylinder of ash dangling from his lip, Glock 17 peeking from his boot, my granddad would quote Shakespeare through a cloud of smoke like some divine oracle, visibly pleased by the dissonance of Elizabethan English in a creaky East Texas Patois.

He quoted scripture too, but there's a meaningful difference between quoting and citing. Granddad cited High Noon.

"Why is he staying?" he said, his voice high, the voice of Gary Cooper's new bride as he snubbed his USA Gold into a plastic ashtray made to look like a car tire. "If you don't know," he answered himself, as he usually did. "I cannot explain it to you."

The logical fallacy struck him as exquisitely irreproachable. Why wouldn't it? It aligned with a notion of principle bolstered by its immunity to reason.

It seemed ironic that the great achievement of granddad's life was anonymous, faceless, vast. Along with millions of others, from an array of different nations, he hopped islands in the Pacific and thumped the Yellow Menace.

As a young, if underweight, body lent to the war effort by his government, he won lifelong laurels. As Eugene Tompkins, he alienated the majority of people he ever interacted with, and accepted the fact with a resignation more smug than sad.

"Compromise is a fancy word for surrender," he told me once, in the course of explaining Senator John McCain's role as a deep-state Communist plant.

To ever display an ounce of sense was to be the sort of man that populated the world of High Noon, begging Gary Cooper to run, arguing that the evil men would bring no wrath to the town if he were not there; choosing to stay at home caring for a needful family rather than facing overwhelming odds with no hope of a positive outcome.

His wife was wrong, the pastor was wrong, the judge was wrong. The whole town was wrong. But Gary Cooper knew better.

I feel a great guilt in writing this critically. So much of being an American is believing supremely in the worth and power of just one man. And believing that there is nothing more noble than doing the right thing even if you're the only man in a million who sees it that way.

But can the man who believes that he is right and every other person in the world is wrong ever be? We have strived to teach that it's so. The Southern abolitionists guiding slaves through the underground railroad, the noble Germans hiding Jews in their closets. Time and time again, we learn, righteous individuals took a stand against a vast and wicked public.

What does it leave us to say to a man who sees immigration wiping out his culture and takes a gun to the local Mosque? Or sees an inherent evil in the women he's never been able to interact with?

The troubling question of how to determine sensibly when going-it-alone is wrong if it is ever right evades an intellectually consistent answer. And perhaps in that my grandfather was correct; one can't compromise honorably or honestly.

Personally, I find myself turning more than anything else to Christ's Parable of the Tares: "while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way... The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them."

It's a radical command, the extremity of it too often lost in centuries of retelling, but Christ's commitment to it was borne out not long after, when the Roman Army came for him. If ever there was a moment in the history of creation when the whole world was wrong, and one man was right and had the courage of his convictions, it was Peter, facing the wrongful arrest of the Son of God. He hacked off a Roman's ear. "Suffer ye thus far," rebuked Jesus, before he healed the soldier and went off to die in the most ignominious way possible.

And yet somehow, a generation of men that worshiped Jesus nearly as much as they did conformity, elevated Gary Cooper and his unbending individuality above all else. In spite of the fact they had avoided their own war as long as they could. Perhaps because of it.

Either way, we are left with the worst possible remains of the legacy. Zealotry untethered from morality, certainty without conformity, only the grand, vaunted self and its dogged conviction that "If you don't know, I cannot explain it to you."