“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” — George Santayana
Maybe this is why I like history so much. I like to repeat the stories to people, so that they remember them. Lest we ALL repeat them….for real.
So tonight I will recount a little story about a guy named Robin Hood. Sort of.
He first appeared in a book. It was called…. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood of Great Renown in Nottinghamshire. It was written by a pretty good guy named Howard Pyle in 1883. He was an American illustrator and writer. People loved the stories of Robin Hood, so much, in fact, there were shows, and movies and cartoons about him.
And then. Then…. in 1900s…. people started getting very afraid of Russia. Communists. We had something in this country call the Red Scare. Two of them actually. One after WWI and another after WWII.
During the second phase of the BIG Red Scare, the U.S. went a little bit wonky. People became engulfed in the fear that friends, neighbors, and family were RED. In fact, people started telling lies about other people… naming names on lists of Commies. If you told Senator Joe McCarthy what he wanted to hear.. …. you were a true blue American. Safe from speculation. Safe from retribution.
Anyway, back to Robin Hood. On this date, in 1953…. an Indiana Textbook Commission member… named Mrs. Thomas J. White…. charged that Robin Hood was communistic.
I’m not kidding. Probably Little John too…. AND the whole dang band of Merry Men.
In yet another example of the absurd lengths to which the “Red Scare” in America is going, Mrs. Thomas J. White called for the removal of references to the book Robin Hood from textbooks used by the state’s schools.
She …. apparently… thought that men in tights were bad somehow. Her claim? That there was “a Communist directive in education.” Yep. Robbing the rich and giving it to the poor was a Communist Line.
It smeared law and order. And, according to Mrs. White…. anything that disrupts law and order was their meat. She went on to attack Quakers because they “don’t believe in fighting wars.” This philosophy, she argued, played into communist hands. Mrs. White claimed that the “take from the rich and give to the poor” theme was the “Communist’s favorite policy.”
Certain people criticized her claims. But she said it HAD to be true. … .. otherwise…. why would people be defending the book? And there it goes, doesn’t it?
As silly as the episode seems in retrospect, the attacks on freedom of expression during the Red Scare in the United States resulted in a lot of bad things. For instance…. a number of books were banned from public libraries and schools during the 1950s and 1960s.
You know…. Mrs. Thomas J. Whites of the world… at their Bridge Parties and such…. thought these works were chock full of subversive content. Such well known books as John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Johnny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo, were just some of the books often pulled from shelves.
The Red Scare was far reaching…. Hollywood films also felt the pressure to conform to more suitably “all-American” themes. And Rock and Roll music was thought to be communist-inspired. Yes, at certain points, it was one big inquisition.
But back to Robin Hood.
The novel. The story. The legend. He was reinstated at some point… because Kevin Costner played him on the big screen in 1991… and Russel Crowe again in 2010. And of course, who could forget Robin Hood: Men In Tights in 1993? So that Epic Tale still exists in theory.
If we don’t remember history, we are condemned to repeat it.
The real part of this.. is that the rich are stealing from the poor. Throughout history. This seems to be the part of history that rich people in power would like us to keep repeating, again, and again. The history continues.