Denial and delusion


Your cover story featuring Jeffery Lockwood's article, "Why the West needs Mythic Cowboys," is an apropos commentary (HCN, 6/9/08). However, Mr. Lockwood is missing the point -- namely, most of the fiction and movies on the subject are constructed to support the principle that "might makes right" and that conflicts are settled with rifles, pistols and nooses. Owen Wister's archetypical novel The Virginian, written to calm the furor over the Johnson County Wars, deludes the reader into thinking that the cattle barons who hired a posse to commit these atrocious acts are really the good guys. But the lands the cattle barons were occupying were taken at gunpoint from the Indians. When the small-time ranchers and the female companions (Cattle Cate) on the plains that helped make life tolerable stood in the way, they too had to be chased away.

Unfortunately, the whitewashing of the past with a false coping myth is not my idea of progress. We need to think clearly and deal honestly with the reality and consequences of our decisions, otherwise there will be more denial. Such denial leads to equally delusory thinking, as many commentators like Rush Limbaugh prove when they scream about how the ice caps and glaciers aren't really receding and that global warming is a fiction created by wacko liberals. This type of thinking is designed to support agendas, not to promote progress and environmental responsibility.

Steve Olson
Portland, Oregon