EYES WIDE SHUT

Covid and the Glory of the Old West

by Thea Halo

There’s a film on Netflix called: My Heroes Were Cowboys. And yes. Who didn’t love cowboys as a child? My favorite was Alan Rocky Lane, a serial Western shown on Saturdays in our neighborhood movie theater years ago. Alan Rocky Lane used to race to his horse and mount him by slapping his hands on the horses rump, and then catapulting himself over the horse’s rear right into the saddle before galloping off after the bad guys. What kid wouldn’t love a guy like that?  

Many men, and perhaps women in the US, have never abandoned the romance, freedom and, some might say, the bravery of the old West. Perhaps putting aside how often men were shot down in gunfights, ranchers were robbed of their cattle, and trains and stage coaches were robbed, the glory of the old West has remained in our memory as a time of freedom, of bravery, and of independence. Women of the old West were often portrayed as independent, strong, and sometimes wisecracking, putting men in their place. Of course, most of the women portrayed like that often worked in a saloon or brothel, but certainly not all. Even good girls had a mind of their own and they weren’t taking any guff from no two bit cowpoke. 

Why wouldn’t Americans want to keep that image alive and try to live it in their daily lives today? No one is going to tell them how to live, scare them into believing they could get sick and die from a virus, and when to wear a mask or get vaccinated. Viruses didn’t lay any cowboy low in my recollection. A bullet, perhaps. But not a virus. But even in the case of a bullet, one could hope to rely on one’s own skill with a firearm to beat the odds. If you didn’t learn to draw and shoot fast and straight enough, that was on you. Real men didn’t run from a fight, even when facing death. Remember High Noon? The odds were certainly against the sheriff, but he stood his ground.

So is it any wonder that many men and women in the US, especially in areas where cowboys once roamed and ruled, resist being told what to do, when to do it, and that they should be afraid? My Mom used to say, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” And right she was. Indeed, even with all the death and destruction, the portrayal of the old West for some still represents a world of freedom and manliness. That’s difficult to give up when some snooty east coast city doctor or scientist sticks his nose into one’s business and tries to tell you you’re not invulnerable… that you should be afraid of something you can’t even see…that this unseen thing can lay you flatter than a Colt 45, and a quick draw won’t save you. Who’d want to believe that?

Copyright October 2021. All rights reserved

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Thea Halo is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir, Not Even My Name, a former news correspondent for WBAI in NYC, and a former producer for public radio in upstate NY. Not Even My Name was instrumental in garnering the first state-level resolutions in the U.S. that recognized the genocide of the Pontian and other Asia Minor Greeks and Assyrians. She was a co-sponsor and driving force, along with Prof. Adam Jones, of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) resolution that affirmed the Ottoman Genocides of Pontian and other Asia Minor Greeks and Assyrians as comparable to the genocide of the Armenians. She has also published a collection of poetry, and a number of Thea’s historical papers on the Genocides of Greeks and Assyrians have been published in books on the Ottoman Genocides. In 2009, Thea, along with her mother, Sano Halo, who passed away in 2014 at the age of 105, were awarded honorary Greek citizenship by the Greek government. In 2002, Thea was awarded the AHEPA Homer Award and, in 2012, the Association of Greek American Professional Women honored Thea and Sano for their “Profound contribution to Literature and to Hellenic Cultural Heritage and History.” Thea has also won numerous awards for her poetry and literary essays.

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