Sunday, June 11, 2006

The reverberations in the name.

The Hesperado.

The name of this blog implies a few associations: the first that comes to mind, of course, is the desperado—the gunslinger whose Spanish sobriquet meant literally “a guy who’s lost hope”. The hesperado, by contrast, and by its assonancy with esperance (hope), would be a guy who has hope.

That’s not all: the “hesper” part comes from the Greek Hesperos, which means the evening star, the setting sun, and by extension, the West. The hesperado has hope in the West.

A further ripple in this linguistic pond is the Hesperides of Greek mythology, who were “daughters of the Evening”, dwelt on a Western island of the ocean, and guarded a garden of golden apples: a pre-Christian echo of the symbolism of Paradise—symbolizing the eschatological basis for the existential experience of hope and its transcendent source.

Then we recall the “Wild West”, the fabled stomping ground of the desperado, a place and an era evoking the “Manifest Destiny” of America, and some of its virtues of freedom, independence, pluck and individuality. The Wild West in many ways symbolized the ongoing creation and progress of America—not a static polity frozen in time with the Founding Fathers, but moving, growing, dynamic, organic; yes, often violent and blustery, but full of a spirit that would come to nourish a culture that valued fairness, tolerance, flexbility, a wide open mind, fun, inventiveness, and a common decency.

The Wild West also symbolized a long fight against regression, stagnation and savagery—taming the Indians of America, most of whom sadly—and often quite brutally—refused to accept the invitations to move forward with us and civilize. (And though the early Americans often retaliated brutally as well, we would ask of our fellow Westerners who tend to be hyper-self-critical of their own West that, at the very least, they accord those pioneers the same exculpatory apologies which they often bend over backwards to accord most other non-Western cultures and non-Western eras whenever their struggles are brought up for critical review).

Put this all together, and you have the Hesperado: a courageous supporter and champion of the modern West, whose writer recently—almost too late—became conscious of another culture representing not only regression, stagnation and savagery, but also an inveterate enmity against the West, from at least as early as the 7th century A.D. to the present: Islam.

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