Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?

Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? - Paula Cole said,

"Where is my John Wayne
Where is my prairie song
Where is my happy ending
Where have all the cowboys gone"

Generally, Cole's lyrics are said to promote the concept of a glamorized male paradigm that does not exist outside Hollywood fantasy. While I cannot disagree that this analysis works on the surface level, I see the song as having a deeper, more global, message: By my interpretation, Cole is bemoaning the loss of innocence—her own, certainly, and that of the world at large. She sees the loss of her own childhood innocence as a metaphor for the decline of societal morality, in general, and of the decline of the amalgamation of family that necessarily follows.

Cole's lyrics paint a clear image of traditional family structure: "I will do the laundry if you pay all the bills." Again, conventional interpretation says this is Cole agonizing over the inequality of male and female roles in family life and how distinctly this inequality is highlighted by idealized life portrayed in films and television. It is simple enough to see her words as a declaration of the disparity between reality and the perfect family as seen in the movies and television of the 1950s and early 1960s: Cole is clearly stating that Dennis is not a menace by today's standards, June Cleaver does not exist, and father does not necessarily know best.

In the larger, more dynamic and global sense, I see the statements Cole makes in her song as a postulation that the world has changed, and the moral decline of the world at large is due to a great extent not to the idealization of family life as portrayed in movies and television from an earlier era but rather to the liberalization of society, in general, and the dramatic lowering of the standard by which accepted behavior is measured. In other words, I see Cole's words as placing the blame for the grossly declined societal standard on the removal of faith from the family, school, and government.

Sadly, the world today judges behavior as acceptable—even normal—that would have been fully condemned under earlier moral standards.

I lived in this small city where I now dwell (Corning, CA) while attending grammar school and high school. I graduated from high school in 1962. At that time, it was uncommon for people to lock their houses or cars. There was no need! Common decency ruled the airwaves and movie theatres: Foul language, nudity, drug references, and sexuality were never subjects for television programming, and the films that were considered racy by the standards of the day would be rated PG-13 in today's liberal world. The family structure was a husband, wife, and children—and, often, a pet or pets. There was no waver from this. There were no same-sex unions. There was no serious crime here. Dependence on government support was uncommon and brief.

I recall a fishing trip to Black Butte Lake (about 20 miles from here). I was fifteen or so. My father, my two brothers, and I found the fishing to be particularly good, and we decided we would return the following day. We left our gear at our campsite and returned home. The following day, we returned to find all as we had left it—with the exception of a five-gallon can of gasoline. The can had been full. Taped to the can was a brief note apologizing for taking a couple gallons of fuel from the can and explaining that it had been necessary to do so because the note-writer's car had unexpectedly been too low on fuel to drive home. Two dollar bills were included with the note—considerably more that the value of the purloined fuel.

Today, I would never consider leaving our house or cars unlocked, and the thought of leaving fishing gear unattended simply would never occur.

What has changed? God was removed from schools and government! Once the Bible is not an advisement by which one leads one's life, there is no credible moral signature extant. Once one negates the concept of living one's life as one imagines Jesus would have one live it, there is no path for one to take that leads one necessarily to a life of virtue and morality.

Where have all the cowboys gone?