Monday, June 16, 2008

Endeavor to persevere


We thought about it for a long time, "Endeavor to persevere." And when we had thought about it long enough, we declared war on the Union.
--Lone Watie, The Outlaw Josie Wales
The joy of working out in the modern age gym is that you can watch television while sweating away on the elliptical machine (or treadmill or stationary bike). My habit is to tune into the Travel Channel and flip back and forth between it and the History Channel during commercials. But since they are likely owned by same company I generally encounter commercials on both channels at the same time. Then I switch to the Food Network and watch it for a few minutes until the irony of working out and watching a network entirely dedicated to fattening food overcomes me.

And no, I haven't started digressing, yet.

Anyway, I was watching the History Channel and for some reason they were airing The Outlaw Josie Wales with Clint Eastwood. It is one of my favorite Clint Eastwood films. It was made in 1976 (the year I graduated from High School) after his Spaghetti Western days and before he stumbled into movies co-starring orangutans and his ex-girlfriend Sondra Locke. It was made during his Dirty Harry days and the character he played was kind of like a Civil War era Harry Callahan.

I'm still not digressing, yet.

So in the film Clint Eastwood plays Josie Wales, a Missouri farmer who joins a Confederate guerilla unit and winds up on the run from the Union soldiers who murdered his family. While on the run he meets a Cherokee named Lone Watie (played by Chief Dan George). Lone Watie relates the story of how he and representatives of the five "civilized" tribes went to Washington D.C. and met the Secretary of the Interior. The bureaucrat shook their hands, told them how civilized they looked and amonished them to "endeavor to persevere." That's when Lone Watie says, "We thought about it for a long time, 'Endeavor to persevere.' And when we had thought about it long enough, we declared war on the Union."

I don't know why that has always struck me as hilarious. It was such a dumb shit thing to say and Lone Watie and the rest of the civilized nations realized that. Perhaps what appeals to me about the quote is the quixotic quality of it. Endeavoring to persevere reeks of windmills and giants. In simple, un-bureaucrat terms it means to "try to keep trying." Or at least that is how I interpret it.

Ironically, when I looked the quote up on Google, I discovered many other people have been impressed by phrase as well. But they banter it about as if it is some inspirational mantra urging people hang in there rather than a condenscending pat on the head by a pompeous politician degrading another culture he thought was inferior. Endeavoring to persevere isn't noble, it's an exercise in futility.

And to think this ironic ephiphany came to me while stairstepping my way to nowhere on an elliptical machine watching a 32-year old Clint Eastwood movie on the History Channel.
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