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Justified I.1-6

On the possibility of the Western

In a Miami bar, Marshal Givens confronts a criminal at his table. He’d told the man he had a day to leave town. Now he has come to kill him. The man talks his last, he draws, he gets killed. Then Raylan Givens is kicked out of Miami, back to his home in Kentucky. This is not the end of the story, however.

Miami is no place for cowboys. Givens assumed he ran the city, at least so far as criminals were concerned. Miami likes criminals better than cowboys. Kentucky is not different. But we remember that Kentucky was the first western territory to become a state & it is just above the Mason-Dixon line separating North & South. Now, Kentucky is poor & unimportant. America has forgotten Kentucky. It is also lawless. Men run wild in Kentucky.

Marshal Givens fits best in this picture. He belongs here, but he cannot tolerate lawlessness. The lawless might tolerate him, though. Raylan is bringing the law back to Kentucky. It takes a lot of attention to details to learn how Kentucky became lawless. So for example, the law is the family, but family is lawless. The manly life may only be possible when lawlessness arises. Liberalism failed in Kentucky because the men became debauched; this taught the women to protect themselves & forget the laws.

There is a saying about wrestling pigs: Ain’t easy to win – you both get dirty, but the pig likes it. Law enforcement is like wrestling pigs. Pigs are the greediest, least reasonable house animals. In these latter days, is it possible to have a Western? Westerns are not about the War of Independence or the Civil War, much less later, lesser wars. They’re about how America was made, though, & of what men are made.

Raylan’s first real enemy is Boyd the neo-Nazi. Anyone who knows American politics knows fascism is not one of them. The point is that some few American men become Nazis. Why? Well, watch how Boyd Crowder turns criminals into Nazis & you will see the predicament of man as such. This possibility was always known to the Westerns. The Kentucky wilderness is not a place where you can take America for granted, even if you can see that the folks there are Americans.

Raylan’s mistake is twofold: He thinks you can put people in jail & forget about them. Liberalism insists on the difference between death & jail. He thinks that a man who wants to steal money & cause explosions is for that reason predictable or small-time. Stealing money is as conventional as money, but greed is not. & explosions attract men, because they are terrifying. Modern comfort is highly combustible.

Whoever likes Westerns will love this