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Some time ago I watched  "The Man who shot Liberty Valance " - it should be compulsory viewing for everyone in America right now, if not the entire world. What a spectacular tale about the value of a vote and the value of free and fair elections.

I have watched it before, but never before has that message come through so loud and clear as it did in my recent rewatch. .

What was it about? A bad guy and his bully mates trying to terrorise a community into submission. A weak Marshall, afraid to confront the baddies; a newspaper man frightened of the bad guys torching his newspaper office and or killing him;  and townspeople too afraid to confront the menace that is ruining their lives.

Questions arise when Senator Stoddard (James Stewart) attends the funeral of a local man named Tom Doniphon (John Wayne) in a small Western town. Flashing back, we learn Doniphon saved Stoddard, then a lawyer, when he was beaten up by a crew of outlaws terrorising the town, led by Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin). As the territory's safety hung in the balance, Doniphon and Stoddard, two of the only people standing up to him, proved to be very important, but different, foes to Valance.

The movie is told in flashback to when Ransom Stoddard, a recent law graduate, goes west to start a practice,. The stagecoach he travels on is beset by Liberty and his gang.and Stoddard is horsewhipped to within an inch of his life by Liberty Valance. 

Robbed of his money and possessions, Ranson earns his keep by helping the local townsfolk of Shinbone who saved his life.

 

He teaches them to read and to understand the Laws that govern them. He teaches them that a sound education is the key to Law and Order and will set them free from the shackles of illiteracy and ignorance. 

Set in an unknown frontier territory, there is about to be a vote to decide whether they stay as a Territory or seek Statehood. It is in the era when the railroad had come to town and the days of the Open Range and " the Wild West " were becoming less popular.

Liberty Valance was the symbol of the lawlessness of an age that was dying; Ransom Stoddard was the symbol of the future. Jack Doniphon was the face of a realist who could see that to move forward was inevitable and would only be a positive move with the right men in charge.

I had only really ever watched it as a Cowboy Movie before: Mind you it has been some many long years since I watched it last. But I finally got a sense of what the story was really all about.

It was so much more. It was one of the greatest political movies to ever come out of America. It shows the power of the vote, the power of holding the line; the power of solidarity when all seems lost and the might of the word of Law.was all It also tells the story of how it takes the will of the men in the shadows to allow Law and Order to triumph. 

Change can only be effective when the right people guide that evolution of Civilisation - to have self serving bullies at the forefront would certainly spell the cessation of all freedom for EVERYONE except the bullies, cheats and liars.

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The climax of the flashback sequence is when Ransom Stoddard decides to confront the gun slinging sharp shooter Liberty Valance in a face to face shootout. By some miracle, Stoddard shoots and kills the wicked Valance and is hailed a hero. He goes on to become the State Senator, Governor and rises to fame and fortune as a legend as " The Man who shot Liberty Valance."

Of course, the retelling of the story reveals the true sequence of events and I dare not continue to write without revealing those events. So skip this bit if you have never seen the film or read the story.

It was the shot fired by Jack Doniphon that really killed Liberty Valance. Aided by Jack's trusty sidekick, his black American farmhand Pompey. 

Stoddard was defending himself. It was a showdown, face to face. Valance fired the first shot. In the shadows, Doniphon shoots Valance with a rifle. As Valance has tried to kill Stoddard, killing Valance is an act of 'defense of another.' No crime has been committed by either Stoddard or Doniphon.

Pompey of course was great Roman general and I think this name given to Doniphon's farm worker is also apt.

I think the end of the movie is often misconstrued. It is a case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Stoddard and Doniphon are rivals, but both can see the advantage in the town developing. Doniphon acts to help Stoddard as he knows he's a dead man if he doesn't and their ambitions align. It helps that Doniphon can't stand Valance (full credit to Lee Marvin, he played a brilliant 'baddie').

The darker, deeper meaning is that bad men often do bad things so that gentler folk may sleep soundly at night.

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Without the Law and Order that was advocated by Ransom Stoddard, the townsfolk would never have had the knowledge or courage to speak for themselves. Without Ransom Stoddard's commitment to doing the right thing, the town and territory would have sunk into an abyss of never ending fear and violence, drudgery and slavery to greed and oppression.

But, without Jack Doniphan, the man in the shadows and his trusted friend Pompey,  Law and Order would have died that day.  Law and Order was prepared to stand and fight to the death but realistically, it wouldn't stand a snowball's chance in hell against the likes of Liberty Valance and his gang without the help of the Men in the Shadows..

And I tell you what. We need a few men in the shadows in Townsville , Alice Springs, Darwin and elsewhere right now.

 

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We see the corruption and the gangs of out of control actvists and young thugs, some as young as 8 years old, threatening and terrorising the people of America, Australia, and places all across the world. So called Social Justice Warriors, our media, our social media and our so called Representatives cowering before the horsewhip of the Chinese Communist Party and their minions. We see Ukraine blackmailing our nations. We see anti semitism and violence everywhere. 

Millions of people around the world are the citizens of towns and cities that have had a gutful of the Liberty Valance thuggery and the gang violence that is shredding our societies and destroying the very thing that can save us:  a sound education, a knowledge of our Laws, our appreciation and demand for the protection of our rights and the knowledge that we have someone to lead us forward into growth, not backward into oppression and slavery.

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We are all pilgrims in a foreign land right now. We have our Ransom Stoddard, our Lincoln and our Men in the Shadows.

We have our Laws.

But we must win and, in a strictly metaphorical sense, it is time for the final shootout 

It is time for the Men in the Shadows to pull the metaphorical trigger and end this NOW.

 

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