Dear Fellow Citizen:
The next time Dominique de Villepin calls you an American cowboy, do not punch him in his arrogant French nose; say merci beaucoup. You will have been paid a fine compliment, as Thomas Engeman beautifully reminds us in the forthcoming issue of the Claremont Review of Books.
The American cowboy has a noble heritage. He is descended, and honorably distinguished, from the heroes of Homeric epic and Arthurian legend (owing so much, incidentally, to the French poet Chretien de Troyes). From the Knights of the Round Table, to Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, Fenimore Cooper's Leather-Stocking, Owen Wister's Virginian, and the movie-classic "Shane," brave men have stood alone and dauntless in our imaginations, vividly defying great dangers or would-be tyrants, righting wrongs in a lawless world, defending the weak, and occasionally saving fair damsels in distress. Even Raymond Chandler's gallantly hardboiled private detective, Philip Marlowe, is a democratic knight, a Leather-Stocking of the modern urban jungle—Shane of the noir frontier.
This heroic tradition is alive and walking tall in American popular culture, as the bravery and decency of our thousands of young heroes have shown so dramatically in Iraq. So remember that there are bad guys in the world and that you are not one of them. Don't hesitate to shoot from the hip, if circumstances seem to require it, without consulting the U.N. The troubled town will be grateful, though it will be relieved to see you ride off into the sunset; and the beautiful girl will love you forever, even if she (rightly) marries the farmer.
Of course, you may have many other perfectly good reasons for punching monsieur de Villepin in the nose.
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