Saturday, May 11, 2013

Jesse James and Rush Limbaugh

Red state v. blue state is nothing new.  Once upon a time we were as divided as a nation as we are now and virtually along the same sectional lines.  That was before, during, and after the Civil War.  Since a newly-estimated 800,000 Americans died in that war  (the estimate used to be 600,000 until last year), I guess you could say we were more divided in the 1860s than now.  At least we haven't come to outright slaughtering each other in these times.  At least not yet.

It is striking, however, to note the similarity between now and the years right after the Civil War, particularly if we look at post-war Missouri and the fabled Jesse James.  The real Jesse James of that era was a Confederate guerilla who refused to quit killing people when the war ended.  He had learned his gruesome "bushwhacking" craft as one of the eighty men who rode with the murderous "Bloody Bill" Anderson during the war.  This gang of thugs did plenty of killing, including the en masse slaughter and mutilation in one day of over a hundred unarmed "Yankees".  Bloody Bill was caught and killed, but Jesse escaped and in the post-war years turned his guerilla career into just plain thieving and killing.  As the old folk songs tell us, he specialized in holding up banks and trains and murdering the men who worked in those places.

For this, he became a folk hero.  Thanks to the press of his era.  Thanks to the Rush Limbaughs of his day.

The Missouri news sheets of that time that glorified him into phony national prominence made no pretense of objectivity.  In that way they were certainly more honest than Fox News and the radio screamers.  Even their names said it all:  "The Weekly Caucasian", "The Unterrified Democrat" (the Democrats of Missouri were pro-slavery), and "The Vindicator".  Jesse was their boy, glorified as a fighter for The Lost Cause and as a Robin Hood who did you-know-what.

Except he didn't.  There's no good evidence that Jesse ever gave any poor person anything.  He didn't rob the trains and the banks because of any social protest agenda.  He robbed them because that's where the money was.  And he wanted the money all for himself and "his boys".

Yeah, there were "the boys".  The "bubbas" of their time.  The sons and grandsons of men like them would grow up to form lynch mobs, and the sons and grandsons of the lynchers would grow up to enforce Jim Crow and spit on little children trying to desegregate schools.  Today they spit on the idea of an African-American being president and claim he wasn't even born in the USA.  Not all of them live in the South; Donald Trump lives in the North but is certainly one of them.  They are the hard-core gun folks, the ones who sneer at science and "regulations" and want to "get government off our backs."  They walk, talk, and sound just like Jesse and his boys but, except for Donald The Hair, they ride pickups instead of horses.

It sounds like I'm looking down on them.  Oh, no.  "Looking down on them" would mean they are little and I am large.  That's not the case.  These guys are big and scary.  But we aren't allowed to call them out for what they are.  They ride neath the same cover Jesse had, a so-called press that wants us to believe that "the boys" are "victims" of "big government" and "liberals", victims like the bully-boys who began nurturing their "we been done wrong" story right after Appomattox.  Lee may have surrendered at Appomattox; these guys never did.  They are "gallant". They are the unjustly treated victims, victims, victims, victims.

No, they are perpetrators, not victims.  And they have found a better way to destroy the union than by war.  They have used things like the Tea Party, the lies of Rush Limbaugh and his ilk, the 2010 redistricting, and the Senate filibuster to tie our government into knots.

In the end, one of his own men shot Jesse James in the back and killed him.  Maybe today's gang of good ol' boys will similarly polish each other off.  By the time Jesse took one in the back, the un-Reconstructed pro-Southern faction in Missouri had squirmed back into political power, and Jesse had become a liablity.  They put a price on his head, and one of his own sold him out.  That's sort of what's happening now in the GOP;  their "bad ol' boys" are becoming an embarrassment.  Maybe "the boys" will soon be forced by Karl Rove to ride off into the sunset.

It cannot happen soon enough.


"Farewell, Jesse.  Good-bye, Jesse.  Farewell, Jesse James.
Robert Ford caught his eye and killed him on the sly,
And they laid Jesse James in his grave."  

"The Ballad of Jesse James" ....... Billy Gashade (1882) and then Woodie Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Eddy Arnold, The Kingston Trio, Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, and me when my kids were little.  It's a good song and a good legend.  Just a rotten man.  




No comments:

Post a Comment