Marion Morrison died on this day in 1979 – no, not Marilyn Manson, who is a whole different story – a few years after making his last film, The Shootist, which told the saga of an aged gunfighter dying of cancer facing one last battle, all the while the actor’s body was riddled with the actual disease. Of course, we know him better in history by his stage name, John Wayne, or, more colloquially, The Duke. The story goes that after a long and varied life – three marriages, all to Spanish or Hispanic ladies – the Duke entered the Church on shortly before facing his Creator. Not a bad end for any cowboy. His unmarked tombstone simply read: Feo, Fuerte y Formal – Ugly, Strong and Dignified. Quite so.
The first two female generals of the United State military were also appointed on this day in 1970. I’m not sure what John Wayne would have thought of that, or of leading women into battle. It’s certainly hard to imagine him being led by women into battle. I don’t think that’s what was meant by women and children first…
This is also the traditional day of the sack of Troy, with the giant wooden horse, Greeks bearing gifts, and all that, in 1184 B.C.. This, at least, according to the polymath Erastothenes, chief librarian of the library of Alexandria, the first to measure the circumference of the Earth, the tilt of its axis, and the distance of our planet to the Sun, all to a high degree of accuracy. The library itself was one of the great wonders of the world, containing untold literary, intellectual and artistic treasures, that is, until it and all its contents were destroyed and put to the torch by the iconoclastic Muslims, under the Caliph Omar, in 642 A.D., as they ravaged across the North of Africa, creating the now ironically iconic Islamic crescent.
What is old is new again, except the modern barbarians are the products of our modern universities and their books – if graduands are still required to read books. And what books they do read don’t seem to be doing them much good.
I’m not sure if the Duke was much of one for books, but he could see things straight and sure, was always conservative in his views, and finally saw the truth of Christ’s Church. We could use a few more men like Marion.