Outlaws & Gunslingers-The Growth of American Heroes In Times of Deflation
America loves the underdog. We love everyone that stands up against injustice and does what they think is right. We love it more when the little guy stands against the injustices of big business or the government. The bigger the opponent, the harder the possible fall, the more America loves the one who made the stand.
Remember "The MIghty Ducks", "Glory Road" and "Happy Gilmore"? These movies all had one thing in common. Losers set their resolve and decided to be all they could be. Through heart-ache, hard work and perseverance they achieved their goals. Against all odds they won! The list of these sports movies goes on and on...Rocky, Major League, Invincible...too many to list.
Harry Potter striving to overcome Lord Voldemort and revenge his parents; Erin Brockovich the unemployed single mom who takes down a multi-national company; or Josey Wales who takes on a portion of the Union Army after they kill his family.
Why Do We Love The Underdog?
Why do we equate virtue and honor to the little guy, while the big are the bad? You never see a movie about the wonderful giant business striving to take down that little annoying person. And you never will because we relate to the little guy. We are the little guy. It's all about equity of power. We all have something in our lives that we feel powerless against. And we all want affirmation that we can beat it...we can win...we can overcome!
In every stage of our lives something bigger is pushing us around and making us do things we don't want to. Parents, school, bosses and government are all powerful entities that are difficult, if not impossible, to go against. We want to know that we can overcome these, if and when overcoming becomes necessary.
Outlaws or Heroes?
Most outlaws who became symbols of freedom to America lived in the late 1800's. Billy the Kid, Jesse James, Bill Doolin and Bill Dalton were all from this period of time. The west was still wild, many states we have today were Indian land, while others were territories, not real states.
The late 1800's was a time of great financial difficulty in the United States. The years after the Civil War are known as "The Great Deflation". Money was hard to come by. Jobs were even harder. Families were having a hard time. Life was much as it is today. We cannot know if these times will bring the heroes of the next century. As we live through another deflation we can look to these people and try to decide what went wrong or right. Try to decide if they were heroes or psychos.
Outlaw Man-The Eagles
Doolin Dalton Gang
Bill Doolin and Bill Dalton both started life as normal, law-abiding, family loving boys. How is it that these men became notorious as outlaws in the late 1890's. Both seem to be "good guys" until they left society. Bill Doolin was the main go-to person for another's ranch. He must have been a good worker and a reliable soul. Bill Dalton came from a family of US Marshalls.
The beginnings of these men are lost in history. It is known that Bill Doolin shot up a couple of deputies because they started emptying his beer keg onto the ground. Sure, Kansas was a dry state at the time, but these boys had paid good money for that beer. Life was different then, and you did not take what was not yours. At least, you didn't take it without repercussions. The repercussions for the deputies were getting shot. Bill Doolin ended up an outlaw. It seems his start as an outlaw began over freedom...freedom to drink and have a good time.
Bill Dalton is harder to figure out. His brothers were US Marshalls. The oldest, Frank, was said to keep the others in line. However, Frank was killed in the line of duty. Some accounts say that he knew too much and it was not an accident. His knowledge was of the gambling kind. Was he an early mark of a later mob? We will never really know the truth.
My real question is, how did these people come to be glorified by America? What is it that we do not know. Or, if they were really serial killers and psyco's of another time, why do we glorify them? Which version of history is the real truth?
The Eagles dedicated an album to the Doolin-Dalton Gang. I feel this is their best album ever. When you listen to it in it's entirety you understand the ups and downs of being an outlaw. These people and their dreams were not far from our own.
Eagles: Doolin Dalton Reprise
Wanted Dead or Alive
Emelio Estavez wanted the song, "Wanted Dead or Alive" for the movie Young Guns II. Bon Jovi, did not think it fit and wrote a different song. "Blaze of Glory" was the new song and it fit the movie to a tee! Bon Jovi did not think a song singing "on a steel horse I ride" was appropriate for the movie. His new song, however, seems extremely appropriate!
When I was young my nickname was "The Kid". Part of that is I was younger than many I hung out with. Part was the rebel in me, and my refusing to buckle down and under. I still hold onto the belief that not all authority is right, and not all is truthful.
Bon Jovi: Blaze of Glory
Wanted Dead or Alive-Bon Jovi
Dead or Alive would have been a great song for this movie. However, Blaze of Glory was even better! These men, these outlaws, lived a blaze of glory.
"You ask about my consience
And I offer you my soul
You ask if I'll grow to be a wise man
Well I ask if I'll grow old"
They knew there was no hope for their way of life, but lived it anyway. How many of us have the strength to do the same? How many would actually follow their friends to their death? In this day and age, how many feel powerless to fight back? Many of us would like to, but feel constrained by our current lives. This is why we love the outlaw. The outlaw fought back.
Billy the Kid is an enigma. Was he good, was he bad? We will never know. He started his war because his friend was killed. In my book, that made him good. He may have continued this war for longer than necessary. Did that make him bad?
I love the Young Gun movies! They are full of doing the wrong thing for all the right reasons. Back in their day, there was no other conceivable outcomes. It was pretty much kill or be killed. Doesn't leave you a whole lot of choice if you like life.
"Lord, I got to ask a favor
And I'll hope you'll understand
cause I've lived life to the fullest
Let the boy die like a man"
Bad Company is not about any certain outlaw, but more about the outlaw in each of us. We can all be "bad company" at times in our life. Some are "bad company" until the day we die.
America loves to glorify the life of the gunslinger. Their way of life holds a romanticism of freedom. Freedom from the confinement of everyday life and responsibilities. The freedom to go where you want when you want. I don't think we give thought to all the evil perpetuated by these outlaws, the evil gets glossed over.
Bad Company-Bad Company
The man who stood his ground, the man who fought for his ideals...this is how we think of the outlaws and gunslingers of the wild west. The men who were pushed beyond endurance and decided to fight back. The ones who refused to lay down and die. These are our outlaws.
The midnight rider, the wanted man, the one who did what needed to be done and now is searched for. The good man who was denounced unjustly by the authorities. The same authorities that enabled the circumstances that were the cause of this good man's downfall.
Midnight Rider-The Allman Brothers Band and Sheryl Crow
Men like the outlaw Josey Wales who watched the Union army murder his family and burn his home. Left for dead by the army, Josey lived. This peaceful, law-abiding man, pushed too far, became an outlaw hunting the Union Army. The Union Army retaliates by hunting Josey.
We empathize with Josey as he proves his goodness time and again. We sympathize with him even when he shows his enemies no mercy. We cheer his ruthlessness. We connect with his sense of fairness and his integrity. And we want him to live happily ever after.
We want the outlaw to escape, we want him to get over the border and live out his life in ease and peace. Who didn't feel a sense of loss when the Bolivian army shot Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Bonnie and Clyde lived during the next period of significant deflation in the United States, the Great Depression. They both came from poor families who were forced to move to Dallas, Texas due to financial difficulties. Clyde started out with petty crimes, probably in an attempt to help his family financially. He soon graduated to felonies.
Bonnie met Clyde while she was taking care of a mutual friend. It was love at first sight, and the rest is history. It is said that Bonnie only stayed due to her love of Clyde. History also records that these two knew their path was death and decided to make the most of life in the meantime.
Take the Money and Run-The Steve Miller Band
New Outlaw Heroes?
As America enters another period of significant deflation, I am left to wonder who the next "heroes" will be. The Robin Hood Principle states that in times of social unrest, when large groups of people feel oppressed by small groups, certain criminals will become more than criminals. They will be romanticized as defenders of justice. The times seems ripe for some new heroes.