What is the West? Been hearing a lot lately from Establishment types – especially Never Trumpers – about how Trump is destroying the West. I opined back at one of the nitwits that if his idea of the West is what we’ve got to save, then I want it to die.
That picture above is my Grandfather. George Childs Noonan, Sr. Born in 1896. Went to war – along with his seven brothers – in World War One. Because his country asked him to. And there was no way his country would ask him to fight except in a good cause and to do good for the world. Unlike about 115,000 of his comrades, he came home. So, too, did all of his brothers; though all had been wounded in the war to one degree or another (the family joke is this is why we’ve had nothing but bad luck…grandpa and his brothers used up the family allotment). My grandfather would be 123 and it is odd that a 55 year old man has a grandfather that old…but he married a little later than usual for men of his generation (1926; he was nearly 30 when he got hitched) and his son, my father, was even later to the marriage game (31 when he married my mom); so, this means a guy born in the 60’s has a grandpa born in the 19th century when most people my age have grandfathers born in the 1910’s and 20’s.
Because of the enormous age gap, I never really got to know my grandfather well. By the time I came along, he was pushing 70…and my earliest memories of him are when he was well past 75. He died in 1981 at 85 years old. Most of what I know I got second hand from my father, plus a bit from a fascinating bit of autobiography he tried in the 1960’s. The man clearly was a character. It was muted by the time I remember him, but in his day he was the life of the party. He knew all sorts of interesting people and tried all sorts of interesting things to make a living.
He was honest and he imparted that to his son, who gave it to his son: DO NOT LIE. I remember one time as a boy I broke that rule and lied directly to my grandmother and though it happened more than 40 years ago and she’s more than 30 years in her grave, I still feel a deep and abiding shame over it. Better to be a bank robber than be a liar. Speak the truth, or don’t speak at all. Keep the secrets: just because you found out something this doesn’t make it right for you to blab about it to every Tom, Dick and Harry out there. Be generous: it is better to have 10% of something than 100% of nothing. Treat everyone with respect – doesn’t matter if they are the sleaziest bum on the street, it won’t cost you to call him “sir” and treat him decently. Work hard. Don’t expect charity. Keep to your own business and only want what you earn. These are the lessons which were transmitted…and though they become attenuated in this modern age of clatter and buzz, gape and gloat, they still come home to me.
That was the West. That was what was worth preserving. That is what we lost – and its been replaced by something else, something I don’t like one bit. It might still fly the same banners and speak the same words, but it isn’t the same thing. We’re expected to lie – in fact, it is demanded that we lie. We’re supposed to envy anyone who has aught that we don’t have, and demand they give it over to us. We’re to treat people with contempt. We’ll send our young men and women off to murky wars with no clear idea of what is to come of it…and then do dirty, backroom deals with cretins that we’re supposed to be fighting.
No more of that for me: what I fight for is what my grandfather actually, in the flesh and with his blood, fought for. A West of truth, of decency, of hard work, of self reliance. What he shipped off to fight for in 1917 is long gone, but I now see my duty: to bring it back.