Why Loving the Baddies?

I am not the only one to be critical of our culture’s love of pirates. Even as a child, I was against playing them because even as a prepubescent the idea that I would have fun pretending to murder people and steal stuff was contrary to my morals. When I played pretend, I was more than willing to be a badass adventerurer and if I could be a badass Indiana Jones-esque explorer without murder and theft then I would and not add murder and theft to it. The main defense of playing pirate was the freedom it represented but, again, the only things pirates did that other rouge explorers didn’t was murder and theft and I had no wish for the freedom to do those things. Even as an adult, pirates are celebrated by my peers on that basis. It is the same for gangsters, cowboy outlaws, Vikings, and so on.

Maximum personal freedom would be Dioegnes or Abbie Hoffman. Then again, tell them the story of Diogenes and one would find how quickly they’d become mighty prudes. I’m hippie enough that a butt-naked, masturbating, bat-shit eccentric running through the streets and sleeping in a barrel like Diogenes would not offend me and I would not call the police. I have spent my life in the context of mental illness and special needs and I have a high tolerance for crazy. It is curious why, when seeking a representative of socially deviant behavior to satisfy their resentment of authority, society is most partial toward evil people as opposed to crazy people. I hate evil and would never admire a pirate or a gangster but would totally adore a bat-shit eccentric. That or a political radical.

Alas, the average person’s ideal of defying authority and personal freedom is to be Chicago in 1928 not Chicago in 1968. Al Capaone is a romantic figure who is beloved by the American public while Abbie Hoffman is a much less sympathized with figure. Why would they root for the police in cracking down on nonviolent protests while rooting for the criminals when, rather than civil disobedience, their crimes were multiple murders? Whatever one’s politics, one must admit that, for all his eccentricities, Abbie Hoffman spent his life trying to end war, protect the environment, and end poverty. He was fundamentally a good man and for his nonviolent weirdness, he lost everything. For a man who gave everything to the causes of peace, the environment, and the poor, as a Christian, I will gladly place him among the pantheon of saints and am certain his ascension was met with triumphant symphonies of angels.

The reason Abbie Hoffman and Al Capone have such different reputations is because the public does not want freedom from dominance, they want to be the dominant. Pirates’ and gangsters’ freedom is based on the gun. The freedom of Vikings and outlaw cowboys is also based on the gun (or sword in the Vikings case). It is the desire for the power to render others powerless. That’s why people like the lawless baddies and, generally, scream for law and order when facing hippies or eccentrics. The same people who love Bonnie and Clyde to the complete disregard for their victims will, with equal energy, call for the arrest of climate activists blocking a roadway. In their hearts, they feel romantic anti-heroes should be free because they represent the dream of domination and power without checks but the pinko commies trying to save the whales… call the SWAT team!

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