So it struck me late after dinner Thursday that we have abandoned the idea of hero and embraced instead a model that equates financial success with some kind of strange goodness which, in the case of our president, clearly does not exist.
Warren Buffet, those Microsoft people, lots of CEOs and wealthy people I have known, spread their money and their goodness wherever they can. The old clichés about wealthy people may have worked in the 19thcentury, but not anymore. But the old clichés about stupidity and cruelty remain as alive as ever. Which brings me to two TV characters my wife and I looked up on YouTube last night, the Lone Ranger and Grandpappy Amos “and the Girls and the Boys of the Family Known as the real McCoys.”
Of course, the characters are very strong.
If only Tonto had been able to develop an appreciation for personal pronouns he would have been totally cool and not the taproot of generations of clichés about Native Americans. “Mmmmm, Kemosabe, me get horse…” He was always saying things like that and acting as an audience for the thoughtful, meticulously-spoken and totally liberal Lone Ranger.
You bet. We went all the way back to the pilot of the series. It tells the story of a band of Texas Rangers who are out trying to catch a gang of thugs who are planning to take over a town. A corrupt source fools the rangers into riding into a trap and the gangsters, under orders to keep pumping all the bodies full of lead, cut them all down. They are believed to be very dead, except for one, who later drags himself across the hot, dusty valley to a bubbling stream that is running down the side of a hill. There he puts a handkerchief over his face to stay cool.
That’s when Tonto comes riding onto the scene. It was a favored hunting spot that he knew well. From the get go, Tonto is a source of wisdom and goodness. He sees the ranger and tends to his serious wounds. It just takes 15 minutes to fix him up well enough for him to go to the Valley of Wild Horses (or whatever it was called) and find a lovely white stallion that has been knocked down by a buffalo, which is preparing to gore the horse. Tonto shoots the buffalo and then he and the ranger tend to the horse, after a little lecture from the ranger about the need to not kill things. This horse, of course, becomes Silver after about three minutes of training by the ranger. (Okay, it’s a story, not a news report.)
The ranger treats the horse like a gift from God. They fix him up and before you know it, they are riding after the bad guys. But not until the ranger makes a pledge. His brother has been killed in the ambush, so Tonto takes his vest and cuts a mask from it, which the ranger will wear all the time, a tribute to his brother and a symbol of his intent. Which is nothing but goodness. He doesn’t want to kill anyone. He doesn’t even want to shoot anyone. He is great at winging people in the arms and hands if they pull on him.
He wants to be a force for goodness and justice, not for vengeance.
You have to love that!
Which brings me to President Trump. There is no Lone Ranger in the man at all. Lots of our presidents have had Lone Rangers in them, from Abraham Lincoln to Teddy Roosevelt to more modern models. Barack Obama was all about being the Lone Ranger and Tonto wrapped up in one package, kindness and intelligence at the same time. How cool it would be if we actually remembered the values from that old cowboy show. They were good things for children to learn. While moderns chastise the presence of a subordinate Native American sidekick, I don’t think that is what he represents. He is genuinely smart, kind and motivated by goodness. What a good thing that is.
On to Grandpappy Amos and why he, too, is relevant.
Those shows ran, what, 23 minutes or so and for the Real McCoys, they always followed the same format. Luke and his loving and hot wife would spark and neck, the little blond boy would say “gosh” and ask foolish kid questions, Grandpappy Amos would become damned near livid about something. (Walter Brennan was GREAT at livid) and then it would all be resolved in the last five minutes of the show, with Amos doing what he did best, playing a man begging forgiveness for his terrible behavior and resolving to do good. Pepina, the Mexican helper, is in no way subordinate to anyone, works like a dog and says wise things. He is often the vehicle for the solution to the problem Grandpappy Amos has caused with his anger.
I like that, too. Was he illegal? Don’t know. Don’t care.
He was very first of all, human and humane.
That is a great image for all of us. Two morality plays on You Tube, ancient TV series that made their points very clearly and sent strong messages about values.
The president is so far away from this 1950s fantasy world that there is no way to plug him into it. He is just too evil to fit, too stupid to fit, to unfit to fit, and so on.
I am seeing former FBI chief Mueller as the Lone Ranger in this story, with the loyal Justice Department prosecutors and investigators playing the Tonto roles. They are all about goodness and justice. So who gets to be Grandpappy Amos, with all of this eruptions and pleadings for forgiveness?
I’m not seeing anyone yet. If only James Comey were crankier and crustier. But I hope someone shows up.
These are good models for those of us who are wandering in the darkness of the Trump presidency.
Hi ho Mueller…and away!