I watched The Alamo the other day. This wasn’t the one with John Wayne as Davy Crockett — though I have seen that one, of course — but the one with Billy Bob Thornton.
The Alamo itself is an icon. It represents something much larger than just a word, a picture, or a building. This version of the movie did a good job of describing its importance.
Texans then were much like Texans today. That is to say, they were very individualistic. Not the live-and-let-live individualism we seem to like, but the live-and-let-die individualism that is perhaps not so attractive. I got to wondering whether the two are different.
In any case, the Texans were not united. The Alamo gave them a symbol they could unite behind. This is very much what the movie is about: the power of the symbol. Davy Crockett is a symbol; Jim Bowie is a symbol; Travis is a symbol. Human beings in general and men in particular need something larger than ourselves, better than ourselves to believe in and to unite us.
Disunity is followed by destruction.
That is another message of the movie.
After the Alamo falls, Houston strings out Santa Anna’s troops and finally defeats them at the Battle of San Jacinto.
Man is a group animal; a social animal.
Homo homini lupus. Man is the wolf of man. It’s in Latin, so that means it’s not a new idea. I don’t think all men are wolves. I do think there are two kinds of individualists: predators and the victims of predators.
The smart predator doesn’t attack the center of the herd. The smart predator attacks the ones along the edge.
This is a hard sell because we prize individualism in this country.