What Rooster Cogburn Can Teach Us About Making America Great Again

Ya wanna make America great again? Well I’ll help ya out once I find my horse…..

John Wayne was my hero the first six or seven years of my life. He was still alive when I was a toddler, and my dream was to meet him, learn how to be a cowboy from him, ride the range, shoot the bad guys, win the girl (hey, I was a toddler, did you have a better dream as five year old?)

I know he is no longer as popular as he was. People label him nowadays as a racist jingoist. Worse, people say he was a one dimensional actor. It’s not the purpose of this post to defend him, so I won’t, but please accept that he was the hero of a confused, abused, hyperactive five year old Curtis Selby, and for good or ill he became a Jungian archetype to me.

Before he died John Wayne was awarded best actor for playing Rooster Cogburn in the movie True Grit. It was iconic back then, one of the last of the great old Westerns. The image of John Wayne with an eye patch (just like a pirate! Two of my favorite things mixed together like a Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup!), with a bit of a pot belly but still in great shape for an old man, riding his horse with the reigns in his teeth, firing two rifles at the four or six (to a five year old it might as well have been a whole army) bad guys and heroically winning against all odds (take a look at this movie now), that image has became deeply ingrained in my psyche.

Ya don’t like my acting? Well I got an oscar for best actor, wahah! You have one?

Recently I watched the newer version with Jeff Bridges, and I loved it! I honestly don’t know which performance I loved better. Bridges’ performance was amazing, from the growling voice of a man who drinks too much, to his acting drunk (it was an act….right?) to the strain in his face when he was racing so hard to save Mattie Ross, it just made for a marvelous performance.

But to the point I wanted to make in this post: if Trump or any other Republican (or Democrat honestly) really wants to inspire American’s there are three vital lessons to be learned from Rooster Cogburn.

  • 1. Marshall Cogburn was tough as nails, like we all wish we were.
  • 2. Marshall Cogburn got the job done in spite of obstacles.
  • 3. Marshall Cogburn took care of the girl. More on that later.
Trump boy! You shoulda watched my movie before ya ran fer President!

Rooster Cogburn is tougher than the taco salsa stains on my favorite work shirt. The guy has lost an eye and yet still works as a Marshall, fairly successfully. He rides a horse across at least half of the state of Oklahoma chasing what he believes is a wild goose. He’s willing to kill people he knows to protect his own life and the lives of the innocent. He doesn’t hesitate or flinch when Mattie is bitten by a snake, he rides through the snow, running a horse to death in order to save Mattie, and then not sparing himself to run the rest of the way. I’d love to see a modern politician show any grit at all.

Rooster Cogburn gets the job done. I’m not saying it’s pretty, or that he doesn’t grumble or stumble. He even threatens to quit. But in the end he doesn’t. Justice ends up being served, (though to be fair to Maddie, he is not the man who ends up shooting the bad guy, she is). American’s used to be a people who believed in getting the job done. Now we seem to believe we should go to court and sue each other, or go buy a lottery ticket. While there are limits to self reliance, I think we have lost our way, I don’t know if our society would produce a Rooster Cogburn any more.

And that was what made America great.

Lastly, Rooster Cogburn took care of the girl. I know that is not politically correct. But the principal still works. It wasn’t the fact that she was a girl. It was the fact that this was someone on the team who had been hurt and now needed help. There used to be a time when we took care of each other. If your neighbor was sick you made them some soup and sent it to them. If your neighbor died you helped the widow get the crops planted and harvested. Now its every man for himself. I’ll never forget the bosses I used to work for that would say they were going to take care of their own families whether the team suffered or not. I wouldn’t cross the street to help them if they were on fire and I had a shovel to beat them with.

“Who is thy neighbor?” I can hear Judas now….”I don’t know, Master, but if you get his wallet I’ll take his watch.”

Well, that is my two cents worth on how True Grit can help America be great again. What do you think? Did you love the movie? Do you think America will ever be great again? Do you ever just want to run around with an eyepatch and say “Argh”? Please comment and share with your fiends.


1 Comment

  1. Curtiswselby says:

    Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.


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