By Michael J. Cozzillio and Craig N. Moore
Do the names Shane and Marshal Will Kane conjure any cinematic memories?
Both characters were fictional western movie heroes from the Golden Age of Cinema, who, despite being surrounded mostly by timid townsfolk, rose to the occasion to save those people from their own reticence.
In both “Shane,” and the iconic “High Noon,” a citizenry who deeply feared and resented thugs and bullies, nonetheless found themselves kowtowing to their tormentors or at least offering no meaningful resistance to their nemeses. When faced with the challenge of confronting the villainy, they abandoned their homes, relocated, or simply demurred from offering any resistance.
To characterize the victims of the soulless antagonists as cowards is perhaps too strong. Because there was no unified opposition to the frontier autocracy, the tyrannical overlords had the power to punish any isolated dissidents.
Further, the towns, in some bizarre way, benefitted financially from the paternalistic reign of terror. In short, the bad guys kept things hopping and the lawlessness perversely generated commerce. To transfer the metaphor from the oater to today’s mobster classics, the populace was paying protection money to guarantee their safety and personal “fortunes,” such as they were.
Yet, audiences would irresistibly find themselves in the throes of frustration at the victims’ reluctance to fight back. After all, they had strength in numbers. The rectitude of their position was beyond dispute. Still, they chose not to band together and fight.
Does the current political situation rekindle memories of these films? The man who sits in the White House has violated more laws and corrupted more principles than the denizens of the sage brush Wyoming territory or the small borough of Hadleyville.
Both in art and life, the majority would prefer to run the miscreants out of town. Yet, the nation’s elders were, and are, afraid to do anything to resist.
The facts are undeniably on their side, the immorality and amorality of the bad guys are hardly revelations; yet, any semblance of preserving law and order is an afterthought.
The difference, of course, is that our western communities were not bereft of champions. To the contrary, each town was blessed with one who could have walked away but did not.
One who could have escaped but chose to remain and weather the storm. One who considered the situation and chose to do the right thing and defend the integrity of the communities plagued by this wrong. They did so because no one else would—or could. No one else was in the position or had the strength or tools to be a formidable adversary.
Today, some may protest that the bad guys are holding the good guys hostage. And fortitude could sound the death knell for their own economic well-being.
At least in our fictional towns, the citizens were legitimately fearful of their own safety and their families’ well being! Burning farms and hired guns paralyzed those peaceful families ill-equipped to engage and deal with such violent tactics.
What do our gutless Republican senators have to fear from Trumpian reprisal? Perhaps, and only “perhaps,” their current jobs could be compromised.
Is there one among them who could not duplicate or multiply their personal wealth within moments of leaving office? Of greater significance, is there a more satisfying way of ending employment than by taking a courageous stand to preserve decency and honor, or of starting to repair the damage Trump has inflicted on the Republic for the past three years?
Our guess is that more than one Republican lawmaker would rise and applaud the valor and selflessness of Shane and Marshal Kane. They would leave the theaters that projected the blue-black technicolor horses and dusty thoroughfares imagining themselves as going toe to toe with the despicable evildoers.
Well, here is their chance.
They do not need a vacation in Westworld to satisfy their fantasies. They need only vote their conscience and acknowledge the overwhelming evidence to regain their self-respect and pay just homage to the rule of law.
At this point, it would help if even four such “heroes” out of 51 would vote just to hear the evidence of Trump’s wrongdoing.
The United States Senate has always been the darling of any paean to democracy in action. America’s body politic implores, do not forsake me, oh my darlin.
Michael J. Cozzillio is a former faculty member at Catholic University School of Law, as well as Widener Commonwealth Law School in Harrisburg, where he has served as Emeritus and Distinguished Professor of Law. Craig N. Moore is a criminal defense attorney.
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