The Cepia Club Blog

The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Review of: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance Absolute Heroism in American Western Film Cinema (1962)

Review of: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Absolute Heroism in American Western Film Cinema (1962)

Starring John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Lee Marvin and Vera Miles, the John Ford-directed film, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance presents a powerful romantic drama on an unique facet of courage, in existential virtues what one might describe as “absolute heroism.” What rests behind this virtue of acceptance for existence only to suffer something contrary to self-interest and personal happiness ?

As the movie portrays it, absolute heroism does not only pare down the choice between one of personal gain versus the greater good. If a higher virtue exists in such an unfaltering self-sacrifice of one's own moral or even material fortune, that sacrifice of dreams, hopes, or affection can only prove itself worthy in the name of something more powerful. In this, absolute heroism only gains acceptance in self and others through the highest order of the lawful nature of human existence: the “Platinum rule.” And that rule is the denial of one's happiness to ensure the happiness of that person which we truly love.

In the beginning of the film, aged Ransom Stoddard (Stewart), a politician of international fame, returns to Shinbone, the place “where it all began,” and the scene of his famous act that set him on a career of public trusts and service by virtue of his popular slaying of the notorious brute, Liberty Valance (Marvin). Along with his wife, Hallie (Miles), whom he met as a fresh-from-school lawyer in Shinbone, the couple returned to attend the funeral of an obscure resident without fame or obituary, Tom Doniphan (Wayne). Upon passing inspection of the opened coffin, Stoddard says, “Where's his boots. . . .” Put “back on his boots, his gun belt, and his spurs.”

Unknown to the press who follow the one-time governor and ambassador and once-again Senator Stoddard to the undertaker's, the newspaper men know nothing of who Doniphan was, or why the state's favored son returns secretly to make his farewell. “I have a right to a story,” the publisher demands. With Hallie's nodding approval, Stoddard gives them the whole story, and it begins when Ranson followed Greeley's advice to “go West, young man,” and ended up dragged from a hijacked stagecoach and beaten with a silver-handled cow-whip by the villain, Valance. Found by Doniphan and his hired hand, the African-American Pompey, Stoddard is brought to Hallie for nursing after nearly dying from the beating.

Washing dishes for his keep, Stoddard plots vengeance against Valance, through lawful means, by putting him in jail, the proper and civilized way to deal with miscreants. Not so genteel or bourgeois as Stoddard, Doniphan warns the lawyer that, “Out here, a man settles his own problem,” exactly, replies Stoddard, what Valance believes. Doniphan, a hard, tough and crusted settler carving his fortune from a dry, desert land, has no use for justice with a legal fiction of legislative acts within a territorial law. Justice comes from the barrel of a gun when a crime is committed against the real or the personal property of a man or woman, or against a “super-real” property of theirs, namely the right to be left unharmed and treated honestly.

Stoddard, meek and inexperienced with guns or violence, as one of the only lawyers in the territory south of the picket-wire, becomes enraptured with the attempt to organize a territorial government aiming toward statehood. The small farmers and ranchers, raising crops, sheep, horses and cattle, desire a government to secure their property lines, to preserve their crops and herds against the free-ranging cattle barons who benefit from lawless roaming to strengthen their stock and keep them fed. In the conflicts of the movie, one of them in the fear Valance has of Doniphan, who Valance leaves alone, the conflict of love enters. Doniphan knows Hallie has moved her affections from him to Stoddard, the noble man of meek body but strong faith in law and good and justice in rightful moral acts. In the climatic breakdown of the movie, Stoddard challenges Valance to a duel on the streets of Shinbone, and wins his immortal fame as “the man who shot Liberty Valance.” Thrown into the leadership of the statehood faction at the territorial convention, Stoddard wants to leave, go home, to the Eastern states, because his faith in humanity, in decency, in the human-made acts of lawgivers failed him. Stoddard's courage to face Valance, and certain death at Valance's hands, proves truly heroic. But it was heroic in the futile and forlorn way that only luck allowed him to survive. His conscience kills him. He is only famous for killing a man.

What really happened? And who among all of these characters deserves the right to the anonymous virtues of absolute hero in this Western film American classic? As is said near the end by the publisher, and can be repeated for countless ages, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Next Effects Needed for a "post-historical age"

Thinking about how to get to the next stage of CepiaClub as a fellowship. Obviously, a libertarian organization devoted to political liberty, market freedoms, justice in law, and a community of interests and values is what Cepiaclub aims to both promote and teach to others. We are merely trying to use humane qualities to engender a more human way of life--less oppressive of any individual or group, more open to opportunities and entrepreneurship, equality in the merits of our character and work ethic, and anchored in the principle of "only by helping others can we truly help ourselves." Peace and prosperity through awareness and more choices. It is a thoroughly difficult proposition to achieve. However, we have already started. How far will it go with others from here?