The Bledsoe Scene

For more reasons than one, it’s appropriate that we’re using The Bledsoe Scene from Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid to make our point today.  BC & The SDK is one of the best movies to come out of Hollywood, beloved by audiences but somewhat despised by old time Western fans.

Y’see, BC & The SDK took a whole lotta conventions of the genre & turned ‘em on their ear.  Up to that point -- and indeed, for several years afterwards[1] -- the standard trope of the genre’ was that when the hero/s faced impossible odds, they stood their ground and fought, sometimes to their death, but more often than not to victory.

Butch and Sundance, when faced with overwhelming odds, said “Shuck this fit” and fled the country to South America.

But between the point where they rob their final train in the good ol’ US of A to the point where they decide to go to Bolivia then jump off a cliff, they are pursued by the relentless Super Posse.  At one point in the chase they[2] get the cockamamie idea that leads to The Bledsoe Scene.[3]

Bledsoe is a former outlaw turned sheriff; Butch & Sundance know this but the town folk don’t.  Butch & Sundance sneak up to his house in the middle of the night & present their plan to him:  Acting as their intermediary, Bledsoe will go to the territorial governor and get a pardon for them in exchange for their agreeing to join the Army and fight in the Spanish-American War.

To their surprise, Bledsoe does not cotton to this idea.  He explodes in rage, in fact:

“It's over, don't you get that?  Your times is over and you're gonna die bloody, and all you can do is choose where.”

The conservative white Protestant male POV had a good long run as the dominant / default POV for this country, but it’s over.  From May 14, 1607 (the founding of Jamestown, the first permanent English colony in the Americas) to the present, the values espoused by Anglo-American culture / society / civilization were those of conservative white Protestant males.

It’s not that they always excluded others -- here and there token minority representation was allowed to participate -- or that they were entirely adverse to outside ideas, but the bottom line was the white boys decided what the cultural values were, and if you wanted a chance to participate, even on the fringes, you had to toe their line.

And “everybody” “knew” that.

Injuns were either bloodthirsty redskins or noble savages, depending on what game the white boys wanted to play.  Blacks were simple minded creatures just one step up from animals whom whites were duty bound to enslave in order to bring them the benefits of civilization.  Homosexuals were godless perverted sodomites to be pitied at best, scorned and brutalized always.  Furners were smelly, creepy, weird folks with foreign gods and strange customs and un-American ideas.  The ladies, God love ‘em, were gentle creatures who need to be protected and shielded from their own thoughts and desires for their own good.

And anybody who doubted rapacious dog-eat-dog / winner-take-all capitalism wasn’t God’s specific plan for the human race -- and that America wasn’t His new Jerusalem, a shining beacon unto the world -- was some atheist commie pinko.

We were a Christian nation, gawdammit -- but none of that namby-pamby love-your-enemy / turn-the-other-cheek stuff, nosiree!  Good conservative white Protestant male values faced all problems head on, never compromising, never backing down, beating the opposition back with fists or guns.

Conservative white Protestant male values were always right, never wrong.  If we said drugs were bad, m’kay? then drugs were bad, period.  And if we said certain drugs used by non-conservative non-white non-Protestant non-male groups were far, far worse than the drugs the conservative white Protestant males liked, well, that was a self-evident truth, wasn’t it?  We need to punish those people more than we punish our own because they don’t see the inherent virtue of conservative white Protestant male values.

It’s over.

This is not to say conservative white Protestant male values did not make a tremendous contribution not only to the formation of this country but the shaping of worldwide values for over three centuries, but they weren’t the only values nor the only POV out there.

And they certainly weren’t virtuous just because they happened to originate with conservative white Protestant males.

In the original draft of Toy Story, Woody was an outright villain, a nasty bully who dominated the other toys.  But as Pixar was working on the story, somebody had a flash of genius:  Woody could afford to be nice and sweet and affable and helpful to all the other toys --

-- so long as they recognized he was the top toy.

The moment something happens to threaten his standing as top toy…well, that’s where things got interesting.[4]

We have just entered into a period that history will certainly decree is “interesting.”  Conservative white Protestant male values are no longer the default well-of-course-our-ideas-are-the-best values any longer.  There’s a lot of good to be found in conservative white Protestant male values…

…you jes’ gotta prove they’re better than any other values.

The days of the easy lowest-level-setting for conservative white Protestant male values is over; now they have to compete in the marketplace of ideas.

Compete as equals…

And this is making a lot of people -- whom it must be said genuinely & truly believe that conservative white Protestant male values are the best -- grow Very, Very Nervous.

A whole lotta people…

Because they have been living in the horror of what our old pal Socrates described as “the unexamined life.”[5]

They have never really questioned or tried or tested their values, they just accepted them as templates laid on them from above, pre-ordained by God and / or the founding fathers however they envisioned Him and / or them.

As a result, over the next 20 to 30 years as these people see their conservative white Protestant male values be treated as irrelevant but before they die off as a generation, there’s gonna be a whole lotta really, really stupid acting out and really, really, really stupid things said.

There are valid, important conservative ideas out there, and those will be heard.  There are vibrant, soul-stirring expressions of God’s love waiting to be shared.

But they have to be conscious decisions, conclusions arrived at through careful, deliberate thought and actual human experience.

Not embraced because they are the path of least cultural / intellectual resistance.

Especially not embraced because they comfort and reassure by appealing to a lust for power and control.

Bad enough such a lust is a conscious expression; too often it is the result of unthinking denial.

This is not the time to be Butch and Sundance.

This is the time to be Woody.




[1] The Wild Bunch

[2]  Well, Butch...

[3]  So dubbed by William Goldman, and why not?  He wrote the screenplay.

[4]  What I love about Pixar movies is that every time a character has a chance to make the right decision -- they make the right decision!  Woody’s growth in maturity and selflessness turned him from an affable antagonist into a genuine hero and set the stage for two great sequels.  Those who espouse conservative white Protestant male values should keep that in mind.

[5]  “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Merry Christmas 2012

Not On My Christmas List