One of the problems with American culture is quite simple. Not enough people read Westerns. As a genre, it represents a set of virtues for people to emulate. Over the last century, ideals and principles in society have declined markedly.
The Western influenced a generation of Americans when it was popular on television and in
. Children grew up with heroes like Hopalong
Cassidy, the Lone Ranger, and Marshal Matt Dillon. While these may have been fictionalized
characters, they still portrayed ideals for growing minds to emulate. Hollywood
"Westerns... created a model for men who came of age in the twentieth century." – Jane Tompkins, West of Everything
Even in the Revisionist Westerns when the anti-hero became popular, the protagonist still emulated honor and loyalty.
In Unforgiven, Eastwood's character Will Munny is a man who "has killed everything that has walked or crawled at one time or another," yet he is on a quest to bring to justice men who have harmed a woman. Later in the movie, he seeks vengeance against those who killed his friend.
The protagonist in any Western stood up for his beliefs, no matter what the cost and offered no compromise. Pick up any Western story and you will find virtues that have all but vanished from society.
The Vengeance Trail of Josey Wales by Forrest Carter offers some insight into what many consider to be the Code of the West, although it's improbable that such a code actually existed during the Old West time period.
As a man had no coin, his coin was his word. His loyalty, his bond. To injure one to whom he was obliged was personal; more, it was blasphemy.
How many people nowadays are actually concerned about keeping their word? How many people actually stand up for their beliefs? Today, instead of standing up to evil, people look the other way.
There's no such thing as honor, integrity or loyalty in American society. There is no line that hasn't been crossed. Honor has become a word that people look up in the dictionary and not a value to be lived by.
Without the Western, there are no heroes for today's culture. While some celebrities and athletes are fine people, the majority of them are not the best of role models.
As Louis L'Amour said in his novel Sackett's Land, people need someone to admire. "A man needs heroes. He needs to believe in strength, nobility, and courage. Otherwise we become sheep to be herded to the slaughterhouse..."
Strength, nobility, and courage are virtues that are exemplified in one only persona, that of the American soldier, and popular media downplays the contributions and sacrifices of the only true hero left to us.
The problem with today's society can be summarized by a quote from John Wayne. "A man's got to have a code, a creed to live by, no matter his job."
With no heroes to emulate and no creed to live by, how long before we become sheep to be herded to the slaughterhouse?