I saw a movie a while back called The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid, based on an actual event that occurred in the late 19th century. As I pondered the present situation in our country, I couldn’t help but notice some parallels and contrasts between the two situations.
The original story as I recall it goes something like this:
Jesse James and his gang were running out of places to rob in his home state of Missouri. Add to that the fact that Jesse’s reputation as a great Robin Hood sort of hero was getting a bit tarnished. People were getting somewhat weary of losing their hard-earned savings as well as friends and family members who happened to be collateral damage during Jesse and company’s exploits.
The James brothers along with the Younger brothers and their combined associates decided it was time to expand their enterprises into the northern states. It came to their knowledge that the quiet town of Northfield, Minnesota had a number of banks just awaiting their business. What’s more, the town and its environs were populated with peace-loving farmers who would undoubtedly be unable and uninclined to resist the gang’s efforts.
So the gang came riding furiously into the peaceful town with six-guns blazing and proceeded to go about their trade of plundering and murder.
However, the outlaws had underestimated the good German and Scandinavian farmers of the town and its surroundings. These sturdy folks did not consider Jesse and company as Robin Hoods, but as robbing hoods. They grabbed their shotguns and hunting rifles and anything else they could find and set up a heavy resistance, such as the James gang had never encountered.
Anyway when the smoke cleared, the gang was (literally) decimated. A number were killed, others captured (some to be hanged later). Jesse and his brother Frank slunk off in defeat, Jesse himself dressed as a woman. (According to the movie, he murdered a sweet sympathetic old lady to acquire this disguise.)
In today’s version as I would imagine it, matters are a bit different.
Jesse James, his family and associates are respected citizens of Northfield. They are engaged, however, in a similar business. Only now Jesse James owns the banks. He still plunders people of their life’s savings, but he does so in a less violent fashion. He forces the farmers off their farms and throws people out of their homes. He doesn’t do an awful lot of shooting and killing. The economy does not look good for Northfield, however. People are homeless and wander the streets begging.
The good citizens of Northfield are concerned. But they do not take up arms. They have elected a City Council to attend to these matters. The council and the newly elected Mayor act swiftly. They reach into the tax coffers and donate the funds to the banks. Mr. James and his associates, in gratitude to the people of Northfield, take a great amount of this money for themselves as performance bonuses for their hard work.
Somehow, the townspeople do not understand and complain that the members of the Council have not done enough. The Council, of course, blames the Mayor, who in turns blames them. The Council decides to hold a series of hearings and invite Mr. James and associates. Many people assume that the Council will treat the bankers harshly, which of course, the Council could not do. After all, they’re not a group of 19th century farmers!
So at the hearing the Council members question Mr. James as to what can be done to spur the economy of Northfield.
Council: “Mr. James – do you mind if we call you Jesse? A number of the good people of Northfield feel that you and your associates are at least partially to blame for our present slump.”
Jesse James: “Yes, you may call me Jesse. All my friends do (especially those to whose reelection funds I have contributed). I am deeply saddened by the feelings of some malcontents in the community who seem to be engaging in class warfare.”
Council: “Some of our constituents – those whom you’d refer to as malcontents – are actually saying some radical things, such as that you and your associates should actually pay taxes.”
Jesse James: “As you know, I and my associates have contributed a great deal to the community. (Wink) I actually like to think of myself as a ‘job creator.’ After all, some businesses have actually been hiring of late. The coffin factory has done quite well. I saw an ad posted for funeral directors. The soup kitchen is just bursting at the seams. And those little buckets that the beggars use – I actually am working on a contract to have them imported from China.”
Council: “Jesse, uh Mr. James, we apologize if anything we’ve said has been perceived as hurtful to you and your family. What do you feel we, as a Council can do to make things better for you and your business?”
Jesse James: “Well, there’s one thing I believe that needs to be taken care of. There are just too many regulations! Just think about it. If I didn’t have to contend with all these rules I could go about my business in a much more efficient manner. I wouldn’t have to worry about whom and when I could kill or whom and when I could rob. And I wouldn’t have to hire all those lawyers.”
Council: “Thank you Jesse for your time. We know you’re a busy man, while we have very little to do except get ourselves reelected.”
Jesse James: “I’ll see how I can help with that.” (Wink)
And so the people of Northfield reelected their Council and everyone lived happily ever after.
(NOTE: My apologies to the good people of Northfield, Minnesota and to those readers who don’t appreciate my attempts at satire.)