Stephanie Pope essay, Janus Series: Two Faces, One Coin: Part 2: Enduring Freedom In Popular Culture, mythopoetry.com
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Two Faces, One Coin Part 2: Enduring Freedom In Popular Culture

After the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the United States military entered into a war against global terrorism. The military response to the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States was assigned the name Operation Enduring Freedom.”
                                                                          -globalsecurity.org

The initial military objectives of Operation Enduring Freedom articulated by President Bush in his October 7, 2001 address to the country included the destruction of terrorist training camps and infrastructure within Afghanistan, the capture of al Qaeda leaders, and the cessation of terrorist activities in Afghanistan. By March 17, 2003 President Bush addressed the nation telling the American people Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48hours. The ultimatum is carried out March 20, 2003 with the Invasion of Iraq. This began the current Iraq War. Prior to this invasion, the United States' official position was that Iraq is in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1441 regarding weapons of mass destruction and has to be disarmed by force. No weapons of mass destruction were ever found. There was supposed to be some kind of linking of Saddam’s regime with terrorist training camps but I’m hard pressed to find anything I can quote supporting that idea now.

To endure means to bear. To endure means to last. To endure means to bear to the last and to out last. According to Alessandra Stanley’s TV Watch article of October 26, 2006 this is the one coin President Bush tosses before the American people on Face The Nation during the last week in October just before the November elections. The political identity of the President Ms Stanley writes, “founded on cowboy resolve, looked uncertain and chastened…in a rare tableau of weary anxiety.”  Bush promises America his administration will be flexible in their methods but not in their resolve. America must stay the course. “We can win,” he says. The one coin of political identity does not appear to have two faces. It is about winning not losing…winning, the one coin tossed just before the November elections.

Endure comes from a Sanskrit root, dāru meaning wood and timber; and from our Greek inheritance comes dendron –tree and drūs –oak.  Enduring Freedom is mighty like an oak. The Indo-European root deru and dreu suggest what it is to endure is what it is to be a tree, steadfast, firm and solid; our freedom, a tree, is enduring.

In words like tree and trust and in the trusting place where one awaits, the tryst, there is, in our language, an enduring connection where we must address again our freedom and what we are able to trust. Words like duress and obdurate, both of which connote hardness and hardship in bearing, and both rooted in deru tell us “Endure!”

Then there are those other words, words like tar which means resin and pitch made with the blood of the pine; and druid, and dryad; the first, a word designating the Celtic priestly caste the latter, a divinity within wood. The hamadryad of a tree is a female wood george W Bushspirit living as long as the tree of which she is the spirit lives; the living spirit of our tree, our freedom, is something sacred. Enduring it is in our blood.

Now I will be truthful with you. I have been beating around the presidential Bush this morning. Cowboy resolve is not about two faces. There can be only one, you see. The one presented. And, American’s prefer the looks of that to examining anything enduring in our blood -especially something like our “cowboy resolve.”

The Two Faces: Face One

I turned over two lengthy and well-written articles when I did a keyword search this morning on the cowboy image and its relationship to our enduring freedom and to American popular culture. The first, published by americanculture.com, is entitled From the Center: The Cowboy Myth, George W. Bush, and the War with Iraq.

It turns out the cowboy image began with the ultimatum of “48 hours” directed toward Hussein and his “boys” before the ‘good’ guys, the cowboys came gun-slinging. “As the image of the cowboy dominates debates over the war with Iraq,” the article suggests, “it becomes obvious that the term ‘cowboy’ is lodged securely in the national and international consciousness as a means of delineating positions.”

The term ‘cowboy’ guest contributor to the article Karen Dodwell, Assistant Professor at Utah Valley State College finds, is a ‘slippery’ signifier. The power of the image, ‘cowboy’ is in its generative quality toward the narrative which underlies it, what the late mythologist Joseph Campbell calls the power of a myth in the myth operating. The story of the cowboy is the story of the nation and Dodwell’s findings elucidate a number of things about how and why the cowboy image has shaped the face of our public opinion regarding the war with Iraq:

1. Numerous writers have traced the evolution of the myth from the original era of the trail-riding cowboy in the late 1800s through contemporary images that are a mixture of the historical and the fictional.

2. The myth of the cowboy persists not because many people live like cowboys but because it defines something significant about the character of the U.S broadly and the character of George W. Bush specifically.

3. The cowboy represents both a desire for violence and recklessness and also the pursuit of heroism and integrity.

4. The line between the good and the bad cowboy is ambiguous because some people view the cowboy's will to act, even violently, as an honorable trait while others are repelled by the aggressive, eager-to-shoot image.

Dodwell’s essay argues that the slipperiness of the term ‘cowboy’, the power of the cowbow myth, the anachronistic aspects of the historical cowboy and the blurry line between “the good” and “the bad” cowboy  work to set up the oppositionalisms required to support and sustain the idea of going to war with Iraq and subsequent this, the war itself.

There is also an insider-outsider dialectic supporting and sustaining the war energy with columnists and public figures of leading nations using the cowboy myth to paint a negative image of Bush as blood-thirsty and trigger-happy. Inside the US the cowboy image is used to garner support for Bush and war with Iraq in images reflecting black and white certainties. Here again exist the oppositionalisms required of the coin. The one coin’s two-faced form is a unity between the two sides of the one cowboy nation i.e. its face, the good and the bad in the one good in the cowboy’s action.  He will eradicate the evil and bring evil to justice. Infinite Justice, by the way, was the original name for Operation Enduring Freedom, until Muslims complained this was something only God could dispense, and the name for fighting terrorism with terrorism in war was changed.

The larger point is that the two faces in one coin, the cowboy image itself, tossed about the airwaves of the cowboy nation consistently and over time, is what re-energized and refueled the support for the war. A conservative outlook formulates the terra firma for energic good cowboy qualities and the polarizing liberal attitude reconstitutes the negative aspects of the bad cowboy but both sides work these negative associations to buoy the worldview of the national soul in its martial thrust. Dodwell’s findings conclude, “comparisons of Bush to a heroic cowboy may have propelled the U.S. into a war in a faster and more determined way than might otherwise have been the case.” What disturbs her, however, is the use of the cowboy myth, a pattern in the mind of a cowboy nation, as a pattern on the printed page that is generative toward action, in our case, war with Iraq.

Next Week Two Faces, One Coin Part 3: The Cowboy Nation and Its Myth


 

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Two Faces, One Coin Part 1: Gender Trouble
Two Faces, One Coin Part 3
Two Faces, One Coin Part 4
Two Faces, One Coin Part 5

Interlude: Part 6 Two Faces, One Coin
Two Faces, One Coin: Comments From Readers

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