“Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a weathered phrase, a man of honor. He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness.” —Raymond Chandler, “The Simple Art of Murder”– 1950.
“We are your children.” — A forgotten weedy man-boy of middle age addressing Barack Obama in 2008.
Theodore Roosevelt has come under fire by some conservatives recently because of his “progressive”, for the time, ideas on some matters and the fact that he didn’t, like almost all presidents since Washington, wanted to wiggle under or climb over the Constitution to get done what he wanted to get done. His progressivism, for better or worse, was of a conservative sort and not liberal/left as is now the norm. Whatever TR’s merits or demerits as president his real value and legacy for the present day are the culture he championed for the United States and the American individual. His essays were reflections of his life. After his death there popped up, nationwide, many Theodore Roosevelt Clubs dedicated to preserving, not so much his politics, but his ideas regarding culture, the United States, manliness and the value of the Christian ethos in thought, word, and deed.
Shoot forward 25 years in American culture we have fictional characters such as Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe — a pair of fictional private detectives who, as did The Virginian or Shane, reflect, but in a more urban setting, the rugged individual and men who fought against the odds of popular opinion to do the right thing. Both characters were flawed in many ways — too much booze and too much liking for a “skirt” with nice legs — but with nothing more than overcoats, fedoras, packs of Chesterfields and .38 caliber revolvers they took on their worlds while the powers were against them. They were men of the TR mold. Men who knew that life can be an awful bitch at times, that there is a right and wrong, and that if a wrong is to righted it is an individual who will right it; not a committee, not a government. And they know that they will be insulted, denigrated, beaten up and almost killed for doing the right thing. They didn’t complain to cops or the DA. They didn’t curl up into a ball while in a safe space and cry into the fur of their kittens. They girded their loins and got on with the job because that was what men and women did in those days. They had to do it. Not because they had no choice (universities and “the arts” have always been a place for the sensitive to retreat to and feel safe), but because it was the right thing to do.
From the early days of the Republic, in fact since the beginning of recorded history the hero has been championed and praised. The man or woman who, as an individual, struggles and overcomes and is victorious was, and should still, if the modern world made any sense, be held as examples of what the best of us aspire to. Hector, Achilles, Odysseus, Boeudeccia, Roland, Beowulf, Lancelot, Allan Quatermain, Mike Hammer, etc. all modeled the idea of the person who was a strong individual who could trade insult for insult, blow for blow, and exhibit the toughness that makes that person an envy to the weaker who prefer the collective. And some of the above, once the challenge faced them, knew that they were doomed. But instead of running away they faced their enemy because that what was expected and that there was always a hope that the gods or God would smile upon them.
But those days are gone. Despite Jack Reacher novels and Mission Impossible movies, the modern idea of a hero is a committee. Consider the various permutations of CSI or NCIS on television. There are no heroes in those programs. Everything is done by committee and computer all with regard to the sensitivities of the society and the perpetrator. After all, one doesn’t want to insult a child molester caught in the act until he has been found guilty by a court of law. And all of the above are, in reality, government operators. The government will solve the problem because the government knows best. Peter Gunn, Jim Rockford, and Joe Mannix are considered dinosaurs and thugs because they did not depend on the state to accomplish their missions. The man with right on his side and a mission is a renegade, a dangerous lone wolf despite the fact that he may administer better and quicker justice than the geeks sitting in trick offices with trick monitors drinking tall double cappuccinos and risking nothing more than a reprimand from the government boss for using a racial profile.
We have come to the point where a middle-aged man, in 2008, said to Barack Obama, “We are your children” instead, as in days past, a man would stand up at the meeting and say, “Remember this, young man. We are your boss. You govern at our pleasure. The best thing you can do is leave us alone to get on with our lives.”
It hasn’t happened with Obama and, unfortunately it’s not likely to take place with Trump. The liberals are still curled up in a ball in their safe space and the Trumpsters are too busy doing the chicken dance. The rest of us can only get our overcoats and fedoras to the dry cleaner and tie our shoes tight while we ready ourselves to hit the mean streets.