Thursday, October 21, 2010

No Country for Old Men -- or anyone else

Last night I watched "No Country for Old Men." Tommy Lee Jones plays the central character in the movie. He plays Sherriff Ed Tom Bell, the "old man" that his modern world is no longer a "country for." The second significant character is Llewelyn Moss, played by Josh Brolin. He is out hunting antelope in West Texas and comes across a drug deal gone bad. There is only one man left alive and he is dying. Moss discovers a satchel full of money and takes it.

The third significant character in the movie is Anton Chigurh played by the Spanish actor Javier Bardem. Chigurh is a psychopathic killer who is extremely principled, but his principles are not those of society -- not those of Sherriff Bell's "Country." They are his own. He kills people without mercy, but he will also spare someone if they guess right on a coin toss.

Chigurh reminds me of Billy Blogblather in a recent interchange we had -- not that I think Blogblather is a relentless killer -- far from it, but I do think he makes up his own principles, and in doing that he exemplifies this Country that is not for those of us who want to retain the principles that many of us still value.

Lawrence referring to Blogblaher: "He does not value patriotism, heroism, Western Civilization, or Nationhood."

Blogblather, calling himself "Miss Piggy": "You've got that right. Moi doesn't value them because those terms don't have any real definition. They're "God" words -- without any doctrines even -- they're just sounds that people throw around. Now, if you want to discuss the specific things that Moi values very highly about this country, then let's do that. Moi doesn't talk "patriotism." If you want to discuss specific moral decisions and the courage to pursue them, then let's do that. Moi doesn't doesn't have the first inkling what "heroism" means. If you want to discuss Western Civilization, you'll need to get a syllabus together. It's awfully large topic. We can take specific incidents and beliefs within Western Civilization over the centuries and perhaps come to some common ground. Nationhood??? Moi doesn't know the hell that means. The online etymological dictionary traces "nation" to "c.1300, from O.Fr. nacion, from L. nationem (nom. natio) "nation, stock, race," lit. "that which has been born," from natus, pp. of nasci "be born" (Old L. gnasci; see genus). Political sense has gradually taken over from racial meaning, -- hood the dictionary traces to "a large group of people with common ancestry." "state or condition of being," from O.E. -had "condition, position," cognate with Ger. -heit, Du. -heid, all from P.Gmc. *khaidus. Originally a free-standing word, cf. O.E. hed "position, dignity," O.N. heiĆ°r "honor, dignity," Goth. haidus "manner;" it survives in English only in this suffix." So does Lawrence mean "the dignity or manner of the race??" A lot of Southerners would feel comfortable with that meaning. Nationhood?? What's the national difference between the US and Canada except that Canada has a mostly sane society? Whereas we are a nation of gunslingers. What's the national difference between the U. S. and most European countries -- from whom we mostly came? Nothing except that they care about the health and welfare of all their citizenry, whereas we only care about the super wealthy. Nationhood. Yeah, Moi's all for that."

Lawrence: Blogblather's explanation for why he doesn't value "Patriotism, heroism, Western Civilization, or Nationhood" strikes me as somewhat original. He appears to have given the matter some thought, but the fact remains that he is rejecting traditional principles and making up his own. Blogblather doesn't believe in killing of any sort, but where is the overarching belief-system that enforces his particular view of this "Country"? He doesn't have any; so there is nothing (if we were to abolish the remnants of tradition principles that Blogblather rejects) to prevent Anton Chigurh from enforcing his own principles on those he confronts as he chases after the money Llewelan Moss found. And Sherriff Bell, representing Traditional principles isn't able to defeat Chigurh. Instead, he retires from office.

In this morning paper I found another example of someone who makes up his own principles. The French Valley police don't know who he is, but they do know that he slipped some valuable rings off a dying woman's fingers. The woman was 39 years old and dying of cancer. She died a week after her rings were stolen. She valued those rings because they had been handed down to her. She wanted her daughters to have them after she died. Alas, someone making up his own principles like Billy Blogblather, Anton Chigurh, have made French Valley a little less desirable to live in.

But wait. Maybe an over-arching set of principles is on its way to rescue Blogblather from his anarchism. I notice that Juan Williams was just fired from NPR for confessing that he sometimes feels uneasy when he gets on a plane and sees several Muslims dressed in traditional garb behaving weirdly -- or something like that -- So off goes Juan's head -- figuratively of course, but once Sharia Law is formally instituted and not just inferred by agencies like NPR, then heads may be lopped off in real time. Anton Chigurh's principles will no longer prevail . . . no, wait . . .

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