I read once that western cowboy stories are America’s knight-in-shining-armor stories. That author obviously wasn’t talking about the recent ones. But about Matt Dillion and ones like him.
Marshal Matthew Dillion was someone you could look up to – literally and figuratively. James Arness was 6’7”. He stood head and shoulders over everyone else in Dodge. But more than that, he was a hero. He stood for honor, justice, fairness, and right. He was a gentle man full of quiet strength. I am working my way through Gunsmoke episodes on Netflix and it always amazes me the way he walks right into danger – because it had to be done. Wrong had to be faced and stopped. And whoever was being hurt had to be protected.
I look at the “heroes” now and I don’t see any. They are just as apt to murder as the bad guys are – sometimes you really can’t tell them from the bad guys. Hollywood talks about flawed heroes as being more realistic. Maybe that’s so, but then who do you look up to? Who do those “heroes” inspire to be better people? Who learns about honor? Or justice? Or what makes a man?
So many of our kids are latch-key kids who raise each other. I wonder how they would be different if they had heroes like Marshal Dillion to learn from, to look up to, to want to be like.
I’ll miss James Arness. While he was here, it was like Matt Dillion was still here, too.