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Print view: Treating this day as a holiday, we offer a scene from a film
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DANCING IN TOMBSTONE! Treating this day as a holiday, we offer a scene from a film: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, JANUARY 3, 2011

Dancing in Tombstone: Over the next few weeks, we’ll be describing the incomparable focus we plan to adopt this year.

This morning, a prelude, in the form of a question:

Are we, as a people, smart enough to stem our society’s headlong decline? As the year continues, we’ll ask this question (and one or two more) about our floundering mainstream press. We’ll ask the same questions about the organs and “intellectual leaders” of our burgeoning “liberal” world.

Regarding the press corps, we found ourselves asking that first question as we reviewed this sadly hapless report in yesterday’s Washington Post. This morning, we’ve done some background data-checking, evaluating the central claim implied in this report. After reviewing the basic data, we were left with a string of questions:

Why is this education reporter employed at a major newspaper? Who is his editor? Why is he or she employed at a major newspaper? Why do hapless reports of this type produce no response from “education experts”—from “professors” and the like? Why do such reports produce no response from the “liberal world?”

If you want to explore the relevant data, just start clicking here. But when you read that Post report, you’re reading the work of a hapless people—a people who struggle beneath the yoke of a broken intellectual culture. And no, Haley Barbour didn’t create the broken culture expressed in that hapless report.

We’re treating today as a semi-holiday, so sickening does this year’s assignment seem. That said:

In the last year, we were lucky to semi-discover the John Ford western, “My Darling Clementine,” in part thanks to Roger Ebert’s praise for the film in his 2002 book, The Great Movies. The film is a mythic re-invention of Wyatt Earp’s tenure as marshal of Tombstone, Arizona, with Henry Fonda cast as Earp.

Below, we link to a lovely scene from the film. Ebert, a superb explainer, provides the background:

EBERT (page 306): The gentlest moments in the movie involve Earp’s feelings for Clementine (Cathy Downs), who arrives on the stage from the east, looking for “Doctor John Holliday.” She is the girl Doc [Holliday] left behind. Earp, sitting outside the hotel, rises quickly to his feet as she gets out of the stage, and his movements show that he’s in awe of this graceful vision. Clementine has been seeking Doc all over the West, we learn, and wants to bring him home. Doc tells her to get out of town…

Clementine is packed to go the next morning when the marshal, all awkward and shy, asks her to join him at the church service and dance. They walk in stately procession down the covered boardwalk while Ford’s favorite hymn plays: “Shall We Gather at the River?” When the fiddler strikes up, Wyatt and Clementine dance—he clumsy but efficient and with great joy. This dance is the turning point of the movie and marks the end of the Old West. There are still shots to be fired, but civilization has arrived in Tombstone.

To watch this lovely scene, click here. (If you watch, you’ll see that Earp doesn’t exactly “ask her to join him,” though this is a fairly minor quibble.) As Ebert notes, Earp and Holliday are famous historical figures—but Ford’s film is named for the fictional Clementine, who stays on to be Tombstone’s new schoolmarm.

This is a deeply evocative scene. Your society’s future values and attitudes spill from every corner, as some citizen hurls himself into the future; he starts Tombstone’s first church with an open-air (fund-raising) dance, despite the fact that he has no church building—and no name for the church, and no preacher.

In the person of Clementine, civilization has arrived on the scene. But go ahead! Review that (typically) hapless report in the Post. Consider the silence from all quarters, including “liberal” and “academic” quarters, in the face of the broken culture which offers such imitations of life.

Civilization had arrived on the scene. That said, will it survive?

The barber made him do it: For a prelude to this scene, just click here.