Paul as Paladin

Previously by James N. Herndon: Bailout and Revolution, Film Noir Style

Did you ever notice how most fortune tellers operate out of a shack? This credibility-crushing anomaly doesn't seem to bother most people, however. We're told that these "servants of fate" cannot, by definition, use their special powers for self-advancement. (Makes perfect sense to me.)

Kind of reminds you of congressmen. They're fortune tellers, too, inhabiting a federal ruin. Still, the trusting voter invests in the hope. And the politician provides the rope. Over the years, the noose tightens insidiously, and, then, one day, the trap door springs open. On the way down, the voter's lifetime of wasted votes flashes before his eyes. An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge for the terminally innocent.

Admittedly, the whole process has a certain insane beauty, perhaps due to our peculiarly American penchant for self-deception. Ultimately, the "deal" that Congress has made with the voter is this: We'll give you The Great Society (bread, circuses, and foreign enemies), and, while you are otherwise occupied, we will provide representation to our true constituents (banks, the war machine, and big business).

In case anyone is wondering (spoiler alert), this "deal" has an unhappy ending.

Is there a single national politician to have consistently balked at this doomed state of affairs, against our fiat-papered, proto-fascist utopia? Only one springs to mind: Ron Paul.

It recently occurred to me that Dr. Paul is, in his righteous battle against the evils of big government, a sort of political successor of my all-time-favorite TV character, Paladin, from the western series Have Gun Will Travel.

For six seasons, beginning in 1957, the great actor, Richard Boone, transfixed viewers with a character so powerful, that it has become a near prototype of the total identification of an actor with a role. Have Gun Will Travel had strong competition in what was certainly a golden age of westerns, a genre always perfectly suited to the dramatic delineation of moral clarity. Yet its uniqueness still overwhelms.

The show remains, at least for me, a touchstone (along with The Twilight Zone) of the sort of entertainment that is, sadly, nowadays so rare: a portrayal of the battle of the good in the human spirit against its own evil tendencies.

The character of Paladin himself possessed a dual nature. He was, on the one hand, a sybaritic San Francisco dandy with an eye for the ladies, ensconced in a luxury hotel; on the other, an almost shockingly fearsome, black-clad gunfighter, dispensing Shakespeare quotations one moment, and a lightning-quick, death-dealing draw the next.

Paladin often fought within his own dichotomous self. But, ultimately, doing the right thing…doing the moral thing…was paramount. And if taking the side of good meant potentially sacrificing his life…so it had to be. The fearlessness and calm resolve with which Paladin faced his deadly, pitiless adversaries are of genuinely Biblical dimensions.

Paladin was not only about personal courage when faced with evil men, but, fundamentally, about the courage to be free. Big government advocates would find no friend in Paladin, who knew that, in every time, and in every place, stand those willing to offer security for enslavement. Or, to take at gunpoint the fruits of one's labors.

How on earth did our forbearers manage to survive without the warfare/welfare state? I daresay they, indeed, lived a different existence, one often of privation, but one never lacking in pride. They understood that no man, under God, would presume to bestow rights upon another. For with every right that is given, a thousand freedoms are taken. And they knew that personal safety requires personal vigilance.

Paladin understood this. And so does Ron Paul.

With Have Gun Will Travel, as with all dramatic art, we are empowered and ennobled through our vicarious participation in the never-ending battle between right and wrong. Granted, in the security of our living rooms, it is a decidedly safe participation. Nonetheless, we are reminded of the stakes, which are high. And when our moment of truth arrives, we pray that we have the courage of a Paladin, or of a Ron Paul.

Sure, Ron Paul's no glamorous Hollywood gunslinger (thank God). He's the real deal. And he has defined the issue of our time: A gigantic, intrusive, confiscatory, impossibly-indebted federal government is an instrument of tyranny.

It takes courage to face such a foe. Ron Paul has faced it, unflinchingly, head-on. In doing so, he has changed the political discourse in America. And all without fortune-telling. Without empty, impossible promises. Just the conviction that doing the right thing…is the right thing to do.

Watch Have Gun Will Travel and be amazed. Ron Paul is our very own “knight without armor in a savage land.” Paladin would have been proud to share the title.