The characters in the movie could be a slice of Americana. It's very probable that John Ford, the director, set them up that way to reflect society of the times, 1939 that is. At the time, Europe was just starting WWII, and Asia had been fully involved in WWII for nearly 3 years after the invasion of China by Japan in 1937. At home, the nation was divided between the isolationists and the globalists. Strangely enough, these groups bear very little similarity to the globalists and isolationists of today.
One of the characters was a bank manager/embezzler named Henry Gatewood. Gatewood was a character motivated by the most one-dimensional self-centered egotism that can only be portrayed by movie characters. This man throughout the movie cried and moaned about what the government should be doing for him, what the cavalry should be doing to protect him, etc. Yet, there was no thought on his part on providing for himself, protecting himself or contributing to the welfare of the others on the coach. In short Gatewood had the attitude that the world owed him a living and he bore no responsibility for himself or others.
So, of a coach full of people, when the chips were down and the cavalry was nowhere in sight, the others stepped up and defended themselves and Gatewood. Ford and the writers gave the impression throughout this movie that the Gatewood character embodied the worst of what made up America. But, also, that this sort of character made up only a small portion of the people of this country.
Fast forward to present day. If that movie was made today, would the Gatewood character be the minority on the coach? Or would the coach be filled with Gatewoods waiting helplessly for someone else to take responsibility with no notion that they were the someone else. We've become a nation that expects handouts, will not take any personal responsibility. When did this happen? At what point did we turn from a nation of pioneers and builders to a welfare nation? We've gone from a society that punished the person who committed the crime to one that blames the gun, or the environment, or anything else besides the person that chose to commit the crime.
Let me ask you this. Would it make sense to say, "It's not the thief's fault, its the home owner's fault for buying the plasma screen TV". From my standpoint. not only no, but hell no. Yet some of you out there would rather blame someone or something other than the person who made the choice to commit the crime.
We have people that still expect the government to support them nearly 5 years after Katrina. There were Katrina displaced people in Houston threatening to commit violent crimes if the government didn't extend their hotel stays. WTF people? Here is another group that not only feels no responsibility to provide for themselves, but feels that the world owes them a living.
Late last year a mother and son were arrested for a string of home invasions and burglaries. Someone else worked hard to earn some nice things and this "family" felt that they could take whatever they wanted. They weren't willing to work and earn anything on their own, but they expected it anyway. This entitlement attitude is becoming ingrained into us. We're teaching our next generations that that is what to expect.
On the other side of the fence we've got right-wing liberals teaching in our schools that defending oneself is wrong and not our responsibility. They're teaching our children that this concept of a nanny state providing everything is a natural way to run a country.
We've got groups of people on both sides of this pendulum respectively pushing and pulling towards a society that has more and more drawing from the community and fewer and fewer working to put into the community. What happens next?
Fortunately, there are factors working today that may stop this ominous swing of the pendulum. We've got a generation of men and women tempered in the forge of Afghanistan and Iraq, people that understand that defense and responsibility are incumbent on the individual and the group as a whole benefits from this. A generation of people that understand what the generation of men and women of WWII learned.
Freedom requires responsibility.