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Prince George and the return of the Sheriff of Nottingham

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dweller Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-22-06 11:46 PM
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Prince George and the return of the Sheriff of Nottingham
People are working harder, earning less, and the rich are raking it in. Where's Robin Hood when we need him?

The myth of Robin Hood--the outlaw who steals from the rich and gives to the poor (after deducting a modest commission)--is an ancient myth of universal appeal, one that must predate by many centuries the quasi-historical English bandit of the 12th century whose exploits were as familiar to my childhood as the miracles of Jesus Christ. American thieves of major consequence, from Jesse James to Clyde Barrow and Pretty Boy Floyd, have been enhanced by our legend-makers with the same populist sympathies and grassroots approaches to redistributing wealth. India, I recall, had a 20th-century bandit queen revered by the peasantry for her fearlessness and generosity. Robin Hood figures transcend time, culture and gender. The BBC, acknowledging that many children who grew up on Friar Tuck and Maid Marian are still young enough to remember them, is currently filming yet another version of the adventures of Robin and his Merry Men.

The benevolent outlaw is an archetype, a folk hero born of the frustrations of an underclass that sees the law as the will and whim of the privileged classes above them. In nearly every culture, individuals who pursue popularity--politicians, comedians, poets and playwrights, pamphleteers and cartoonists and journalists--at least pay lip service to this resentment and to its populist ideal. This was the essence of the persona crafted by Will Rogers, perhaps the most beloved of all American entertainers. I was caught off guard when someone reminded me of a fact I'd acquired and mislaid--the fact that cowboy Will loved to play polo, the sport of kings.

There was a time when no one could be elected president of the United States without representing himself as the nemesis of Wall Street and Park Avenue, the champion of the dispossessed and downtrodden. A century ago, this was no perfunctory nod to the bleacher seats. On Labor Day 1906, House Speaker Joe Cannon rallied his Republican troops with a speech praising President Theodore Roosevelt: "He is honest and fearless, and able, and stands for the people every time." At his highest populist pitch, one that rings positively Marxist to our 21st-century ears, Roosevelt sounds like a Robin Hood himself.

"There is not in the world a more ignoble character," Teddy Roosevelt sermonized, "than the mere money-getting American, insensible to every duty, regardless of every principle, bent only on amassing a fortune, and putting his fortune only to the basest uses--whether these uses be to speculate in stocks and wreck railroads himself, or to allow his son to lead a life of foolish and expensive idleness and gross debauchery, or to purchase some scoundrel of high social position, foreign or native, for his daughter."

a righteous rant, and with Tyler Bergholz illustrations to boot.

hope you enjoy it.

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