Hostage-taking and Love-making; or, The Dreary Truth about Cowboys

by cowboylands

Another appropriation of the Cowboy myth struck this past week. It was buckshot heard around the world, from the coastal waters of Somalia to a pop star’s son’s yearnings.

A showdown always brings out the best and worst, as is the case of the Somali pirate/ U.S. warship standoff that happily ended with the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips, and unfortunately, with the deaths of three of the pirates.

(Yes, I live my life preferring negotiation over death. Just don’t try to break into my house. I’ll toss you out the window.) 

It was a test for President Obama, who was elected because he didn’t have the kind of shoot-from-the-hip mentality that Bush brought to the table for eight years. A test he either failed, or won, depending on whether one loves Obama/America or hates Obama/America. That’s all Global Politics As Usual, but for the fact that both sides drew in Exhibit A: The Cowboy as a sterling example of what to do or what not to do. 

From Australian news site

Spin-doctors are on it with high revs and on both sides of the Atlantic – in France (Le Grand Bastion or still La Grande Nation ?) as well as in the apparently Re-United States of America under Obama. While the cowboy spin-doctors have to cover up and prepare for more evolving “Lt Col. Custer”-like operations, they wrongfully reported through their media-outlets that the mediation efforts of Somali elders and respected leaders to save all the lives and free Captain Phillips unharmed had broken down. 

It’s clear that to our Aussie jackaroo friend, Obama is one more warmongering American, and he uses as an example a truly reckless soldier, George Armstrong Custer, who was all about being too cowboy for his own good (check out his story at  

Then there is the other side of the cowboy coin. Obama succeeded because he did not act like a gunslinger. Within Runnin’ Scared: Exploring the Right-Wing Blogosphere, a scathing round-up of far-right-wing blogs, there lies an underlying scorn for the “cowboy-Bush,” whom right-wing bloggers have held up as the paradigm of protector of the American Way. 

Then just as Cowboy-bashing reached a fevered pitch, chimes in Don Osmond, a gentle Mormon and son of the inestimable Donny, to speak about all things good with the cowboy, namely, it’s a great way to score with girls. In his lament for Mormon Times, “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” he says:

Call me old-fashioned, but what woman doesn’t want to be swept off her feet, riding off into the sunset with her cowboy?… I guess the point I’m trying to get across is this: Can we all try a little harder to be more chivalrous, or gracious to accept chivalry? Guys, this is probably more of a call for us to step it up. It’s about time we dust off the boots of chivalry, tip the hat of courtesy and cowboy up.

I was getting overwrought with the idea that my cowboy heroes are bloodthirsty thugs, and now I can rest assured that under that blood lies very nice gentlemen. 

If only his golden vision were true. The real rough-and-tumble frontiersmen and ranch hands of the 1800s were as chivalrous as anyone would be while believing a woman’s place is in the kitchen and on her back in bed.

But the Far-Right’s appropriation is just as much in soft-focus. The real cowboy of the 1800s tended to use brute force to acquire and to protect because often there was no other recourse, not because of some knightly urge to spread the virtues of civilization. They didn’t have the luxury of engaging in gunslinger jousts: They ganged up and shot people in the back, and more. 

Those were  are our heroes, buckos. It’s best to know what you are talking about, don’t you think? But honestly, God bless you, Don…

[post corrected for accuracy 4/13 thanks to eagle-eyed commentator, Jeni. Don Osmond, son of Donny Osmond, was the writer of the article that I referenced. Shows me the limitations of too much cowboy coffee and not enough sleep.]


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