'High Noon' and Polish Republican Symbolism in Relation to American Political Culture

21 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2011 Last revised: 3 Jan 2014

See all articles by Michal Kuz

Michal Kuz

Louisiana State University, Political Science Department

Date Written: November 15, 2011


This paper examines the fate of certain Polish republican symbols and notions with reference to the American political culture. It focuses especially on the image of Gary Cooper from "High Noon" that became a widely recognized symbol of the first Polish semi-free elections after World War II. The histories of modern Polish and American republicanisms are, however, intertwined since the very beginning of both traditions of political thought. Unfortunately, because of unfavorable geopolitical circumstances and internal turmoil Poles lost their first state. Hamilton wrote that due to its "anarchy and weakness" Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was: "unfit for self-government and self-defense" (Federalist 2001, 94). This anarchy, embodied by the "liberum-veto" rule, was, nevertheless, a corrupted form of political individualism that made Polish political culture so similar to the American one. In line with that tradition when in 1989 for the first time since World War II time Polish citizens voted in elections over which Moscow had no substantive influence, the pro-democratic Solidarity block used a picture of Garry Cooper from the film "High Noon" on its posters. The sheriff, who wore a "Solidarity" badge was; holding not a gun, but a folded ballot. "July the 6th, 'High Noon'" - said the slogan. The message was clear. It stated that it is time for every citizen to make an individual decision about what he thinks is right and do so disregarding the multitude of those, who may want to oppose such a decision. Referring to that specific film suggested that even against the many, the cause of the democratic opposition would prevail. Indeed this approach may be deemed the positive "liberum veto."

Keywords: Poland, High Noon, liberum veto, film, cowboy, Garry Cooper, history

Suggested Citation

Kuz, Michal, 'High Noon' and Polish Republican Symbolism in Relation to American Political Culture (November 15, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1960305 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1960305

Michal Kuz (Contact Author)

Louisiana State University, Political Science Department ( email )

Baton Rouge, LA
United States
2257763620 (Phone)

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