The Wild West Wild Card
When Ronald Rawhide Reagan became president the Wild West moved into high office and the world of show bizz and politics started to become blurred. Terminator Arnie followed into his footsteps. With Bush junior, too dumb to make it in Holloywood since he would probably not remember even the easiest of lines, the scenario has taken an even more bizarre turn: forget the movies, reality is stranger than fiction, the whole world has turned into a grand theatre of playing out high-tech computer games and half-baked movie scripts.
Just like on the flickering screen the effects are short-lived and new releases are almost greeted with apathy. The directors want to make their mark in epic proportions whilst the overloaded public yawns through the uncomfortable feeling of deja-vue, the sequel. It's hard to get people to go to the movies these days, and even harder to make them play part in the grand game of power. The impressions of the twin towers (both the Lord of the Rings and the New York variety) have worn off; Desert Storm and Back to Baghdad (the video games as well as the two Iraq invasions) are gathering dust on the shelves of adolescents as well as politicians and journalists who would like to move on. The script writers have run out of ideas, and nobody is queuing up to buy preview tickets for Toppling Tehran.
The Wild West of old was a rough place where gunfighting outlaws competed with each other to make a killing in order to eventually retire as respectable saloon owners or even lawmakers. Turning the poacher gamekeeper has been an old custom. And, as the French say: the more times change the more they stay the same. Enter the world's self-styled sheriff, the United States of America, ready to shoot from the hip whenever anybody questions his absolute authority. I am the law, he says, the truth springs from the barrel of my gun. Yesterday he watched the hanging of his former deputy Saddam with glee. Today he is firing a few shots at Somalia, a far off rival who hurt him badly when he was still an ordinary bounty hunter.
Since the respectability of his office demands it, he attends church services. He loves the apocalyptic stories, but makes his excuses should the preacher talk about loving your neighbour or that those who live by the gun die by the gun. He thinks he's got it all under control. He manages the crime gangs to avoid a major show-down. All he has to do is to now and then sort out the odd wild card and make an example of a weak but foolish contender. Gone are the rough days and he's started to enjoy the trappings of office whilst, unbeknown to him, he is growing old and weak.
There is a new gang in town, the Alqaidas. He used to help organise and train them when he was young, but they have since gone separate ways. He used to overstate their courage and strength in order to spread fear amongst the people and enhance his own importance in keeping law and order. Slowly, the old sheriff is losing his touch and can't keep up with challengers to his undivided authority popping up everywhere. Some are just meekly testing the limits, but others have managed to wound him deep.
He's determined to show them who's the boss, yet for the town he's slowly becoming a liability. "It's pretty hard to quit our old trade and go into a business that don't pay any better than this", is what the old gunfighter and racketeer Sam Bass said when he found ordinary trade a burden and returned to plundering other people's resources - train robberies to be precise, ordinary gold in those days, not the black gold of which today's fortunes are made. His new gang (or coalition of the willing) was a bit of a flop and his game was soon up. Bush should have learned from his Texas forbear: Bass played it big and made history with the Union Pacific robbery, only to bite the dust soon after.
The world stage has become the playground of armchair cowboys firing missiles from afar. Their arrogance and over-confidence has made them unpopular anywhere but in their own minds. They're still trying to keep control in the neighbourhood, making more enemies than friends, and everybody knows that their days are firmly numbered. Maybe some day soon, when they've cleared the stage, we can all watch a blockbuster film about them.