Martin Luther King. Frank and Jesse James. Rodrigo de Bivar.
Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, and Benjamin Franklin.
Copernicus. Muhammad Ali.
Bonnie & Clyde. Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid. John Dillinger.
Panco Villa. Ned Kelly. Phoolan Devi. Nelson Mandela.
Salvatore Giuliano. Isikawa Goemon. Crazy Horse.
Spartacus. John Brown. Guy Fawkes. Hugh Thompson. Geronimo.
Hans and Sophie Scholl.
What do all these people have in common?
First, although you may not recognize some of the names, they are all widely known and embraced as heroes by a significant number of folks somewhere.
Second, they were all advocates for the poor, for the oppressed, and the disenfranchised, and champions of liberty and justice.
Third, they all challenged the status quo and defied the “lawful authority” of the time – and they did so at great risk to themselves.
In short, they were “outlaws.”
They were renegades, dissidents, whistle-blowers, rebels, non-conformists. They were defiant, free thinking, unconventional and anti-establishment. They rocked the boat, upset the apple cart and tweaked the Devil’s beard, and shouted out that the Emperor had no clothes. They thought outside the box and colored way, way, way outside the lines.
Each one, in his or her own way, recognized that “the law” was wrong –corrupt, unjust, repressive. And each followed a higher moral law and, whether with sword, pistol or pen, fought against injustice.
In some part of our battered hearts, despite our parents and teachers and societal institutions constantly preaching at us to obey the rules, respect the law, and go through proper channels, we too know that the law is wrong and that the system is a foul and putrid thing, rotten to its very core. We know it deep down and it makes us want to weep or howl or hide or just shoot the bastards. And so we remember those who did not just weep or howl or hide.
A man’s hour upon this stage runs out real fast. Maybe none of it matters and we’re all fools. Maybe the smart move is to just grab all you can for yourself, and to hell with everybody else. There are those who say so.
But maybe in some far flung corner of the staggeringly huge universe, the song we sing and the dance we dance has meaning. Maybe light years from now, some unimaginable soul will learn of what we stood up for, and they will nod their heads, and smile. Pride will swell in their chest, well up in their eyes, and they will speak our name with respect and admiration. And we will inspire them to be defiant, to question, to stand up, to speak out, to do what must be done.
Maybe that’s as close to immortality as we get.
Works for me.