Evolution of violence in the West.--Deconstructing an American Myth

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Last weekend I heard on the radio a quote from the governor of Missouri in which he wanted Missouri to be the most welcoming state for veterans in America.

"Evolution of violence in the West."-Deconstructing an American Myth

By Kevin Anthony Stoda

Last weekend I heard on the radio a quote from the governor of Missouri in which he wanted Missouri to be the most welcoming state for veterans in America.

:::::::: https://www.opednews.com/articles/Evolution-of-violence-in-by-Kevin-Anthony-Stod-American-Culture_American-Exceptionalism_American-Hypocrisy_American-Sniper-181231-947.html



"These characters don't seek violence" But the notion that it's sometimes necessary" is the Western's most fundamental ideal." -Screenwriter Craig Storper, OPEN RANGE

by Kevin Stoda

I believe that our generation--more than any generation before it--must wrestle with, appropriate, transform and reform most of our national mythologies. However, this must not be undertaken in the manner of the Alt-Right.

We need to dissect the assumptions behind myths and the assumptions we have embedded in continuing to support our own myths and memes today.


With the film, OPEN RANGE, Costner and Storper had lifted up a fundamental American Western myth. This myth claims that men (the good Americans) never sought violence but that it was thrust upon them by circumstances and others (the bad ones). However, the fact is that every single American war--even the "War to Win the West"--was not likely in fact necessary. Likewise, violence on the plains and in the West were not likely as necessary as they seemed at the time.

These issues are ever more timely as the USA is now fighting in frontier-like battles all over the planet these days. The author of A NATION MUST THINK BEFORE HE ACTS, Vance Skarstedthas written:

"My students often asked about the relevance of studying the combat of these wars. Today's students can easily relate some war history to contemporary events, but they often do not see the point in devoting significant study to the frontier wars, as they seem so remote in terms of time as well as methods. Not to mention the fact, the generation we're teaching did not grow up watching the Western genre in movie theaters, or at least Westerns that dealt with Indians. I always answer by showing them photos of Indian warriors like the famous shot of Geronimo and three of his comrades, which shows a variety of weapons ranging from a muzzle-loading musket to a cavalry carbine to a couple of lever-action repeating rifles. They're armed with some good technology for the time, able to travel fast and given their experience and knowledge of their environment, would prove to be elusive and hard to pin down."

The author Vance Skarstedt then asks: "How did the U.S. Army deal with this kind of foe? With horse-mounted cavalry traveling in groups ranging from regimental size to small detachments of perhaps a dozen or fewer soldiers and Indian scouts. While these tactics never achieved the all-time decisive victory Americans for some reason see as the only way to end a war, these tactics kept pressure on their Indian targets and eventually, when it became clear the Americans weren't going to go away, the fiercest American Indian warriors, including Geronimo, Crazy Horse, Dull Knife, Red Cloud and Little Wolf, surrendered in the closing years of the frontier wars and represent the last of the American Indian generations that fought the U.S. government."

Naturally, such an omission by Vance Skarstedt falls into the American mythology trap of assuming that Americans from the East could not reside peacefully with any of the hundreds or thousands of tribal peoples found on the North American continent.


Nonetheless, with such a dominant worldview in the post-Civil War west, men or characters like Charley, -the Civil War veteran in the film OPEN RANGE, were needed to take on the formidable foes of American imagination if the USA was to pacify resistance over a 20- to 30-year period (between 1865 and 1895).

In OPEN RANGE, a Kevin Costner film, Charley is the former soldier who has fought in the Civil War and now feels guilty about his past as a killer for either the blue or grey forces with whom or against whom he fought during the American Civil War.

Charlie had been a sort of American Sniper, long before the terms Sniper and PTSD were still more popular in post-invasion-of-Iraq America (2003). Charley likely was suffering from PTSD and could find no help in the East, his homeland. Not feeling comfortable living any more in the East of post-Civil War America, Charley chose to abandon that homeland (or could find no home in his homeland at the end of his assassin days as a sniper and and burner of farms and villages).

Charley knew only to fight like a soldier in a small regiment-striking quick and marking territory over decades. He did not know how to build a just-life in post-Civil War America.

In short, after the civil war, Charlie had likely seen a sliver of hope for building a new life in heading to the high Western plains, a place where he might leave the horrors of his war (the version of war he had created or experienced) behind.

"While the technology of warfare has changed over the millennia, the psychological effects of bloody confrontation have been ever-present, and sufficient documentation exists to conclude that Civil War soldiers suffered from PTSD. This evidence includes medical reports, newspaper and family accounts, and the letters and diaries of the soldiers themselves."

On the other hand, like many American military personnel in this 3rd millennium, Charley ends up working as a part-time Soldier of Justice or Soldier of Fortune in the West. Charley seeks to protect land and helps others. However, he soon finds himself called to become as vicious and as ruthless as he was during his Civil War days--whereby he had learnt to show little or no mercy.

"Clearly, the Civil War provided a perfect storm of conditions that could trigger PTSD. It was the last American conflict to be fought in a traditional manner, but in the face of devastating modern technology. The accuracy of long-range cannons and rifled weapons ensured a greater likelihood of death or horrible mutilation than ever before, as men were repeatedly marched in formation across miles of open fields while enemy fire cut them down, as a soldier in the 151st New York Infantry wrote in his diary, 'like sheaves of wheat.' Those not slain outright often suffered lingering or crippling wounds, in a time and place where the most expedient medical solutions were crude and inadequate. By war's end, hundreds of thousands had been killed or wounded, while innumerable others had clearly fallen victim to catastrophic psychological trauma."

The bottom line is that regardless as to whether we are talking about Americans in the West or the East in the 18th, 19th, 20th, and even the 21st century, Americans were (and have been or become) constantly psychologically and spiritually off-balance due to constant fighting and might-makes-right mentality. This has often carried over for years and decades following the nation's wars. This backwash of PTSD has adversely affected our home-front, our economy and how young men and women have been raised to perceive their destinies.


I saw this lack of awareness as to who we are and what we represent just this evening as I lounged at the large Jacuzzi in the resort I am staying at and watching films, like OPEN RANGE and THE LAST SAMURAI. (I am staying in Branson, Missouri.)

Several veterans from recent American wars around the world were relaxing. Nearby, one of those suffering fro PTSD had his service dog at hand. They talked for a long time with American youth there about joining the military. (Several of the youth were in JROTC already.). No one was asking or sharing insight into the myth that leads Americans to sign on the dotted-line and give up their lives to the myth-that-we-are-all-good-we just get dragged into wars by destiny or ideals.


Myths have so often been created to cover up ill-actions, ill-behaviors, and ill-management of society, people and resources.

In retrospect, we--as a people--are not even certain that any American war was really necessary to send thousands to die or be maimed in.

For example, we cannot say with certitude whether the USA would not have become free from the UK without a major war. We only have to look at how the UK subsequently allowed first Canada to become independent over a few decades. No major war was fought; independence simply followed greater latitudes for autonomy by the UK. Could not the USA have done the same much earlier had we had the will to follow that path to nationhood?

On the other, had the USA stayed part of the UK through at least 1800, slavery in the USA might have been abolished. (Even in 1861, it was not clear that only a war would end slavery on USA soil.) In 1893, the largest slave-owning country in the Western Hemisphere, namely Brazil, would eventually also free its slaves--without holding a civil war. Why was avoiding a civil war not possible for the peoples of North America?

Why was it not possible for Americans to stay in the East after the Civil War and rebuild America in a reformed way as was demanded by many in 1865?

It could certainly be because the-powers-that-be wanted Americans to "go west young man". This push to send young men West and take the West away from the "savages" was said to be American's divine right. Whereas, the greater truth might likely have been that keeping so many war-weary youth in the East after the Civil War was bound to create a generation of continued unrest in the East. Why not offer them a dream to pursue elsewhere and at someone else's cost?

Eventually, we will need to look at who benefited the most from the myths about the "Good American being dragged into so many wars".* However, to crack these eggs of myths need only to begin with the questions of whether our present reality matches the myth on which we have been born and bred.

Were these myths written for the benefit of those who survived war only to salve their PTSD? or was something more dangerous afoot in the evolution of popular history?

Finally, how can this financing of our dreams, visions and minds be ended? Can we participate in a redeveloped American media, identity and nationhood by calling a spade a spade and inviting veterans to help us reform many American myths for our present and future generations?

*Who has controlled the American myths which have best been supported the status quo?, and who financed and published the historians who fabricated American myths over the past 4 centuries? DISCUSS THOSE after you have shared the reasons why the myths we have been fed are not sufficient nor satisfying.


Submitted: March 01, 2019

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