JOHNNY STRABLER (The Wild One) meet GEORGE BAILEY (It’s a Wonderful Life)
This story is about the exuberance, excitement and passion of youth. Johnny Strabler and George Bailey were clearly excitable boys. George Bailey was played by Jimmy Stewart. All George wanted to do was to get the hell out of his home town of Bedford Falls. He didn’t want to settle for a mundane life like the rest of his family. George wanted to travel to exotic places, do exciting things and make his mark on the world.
Shit happened and he ended up staying in Bedford Falls, working at the family business, marrying his high-school sweet heart, buying an old, drafty house and raising a slew of kids. He never traveled to exotic places, did exciting things or made his mark on the world (outside of Bedford Falls). By the end of the movie, he learned the same lesson Dorothy learned in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.”
Most of us were dreamers like George. We wanted more, we wanted to travel to exotic places, do exciting things, make our mark on the world. And like George, shit happened, and we settled for a life less than what we had dreamed. With any luck, you had some moments of exhilaration that touched on those youthful dreams, as you changed diapers, mowed the yard and paid the bills.
Of late, the streets are filled with passionate and exuberant youths. It reminds me of lyrics from the classic 1960s protest song by Buffalo Springfield, “For What It’s Worth.”
“A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side
It’s s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down…”
This tune, by Stephen Stills, reflected the angst in the streets of LA at the time. It was written about the closing of a rock club on the LA strip, but became a song for the times, as the fury against the Viet Nam war blossomed.
The kids on the streets today are equally passionate about the recent turn of events. Some of their disappointment and anger has a legitimate basis. Good for them…protesting, making your voice heard is a cornerstone upon which this country was founded.
Some of the protesting is based on emotion without a factual basis. And the violent protestors bring nothing to the table but response in kind. And unfortunately, some of the ‘song singers and sign carriers’ are professional, paid protestors. And finally, some are protesting in the same fashion as Marlon Brando’s character ‘Johnny Strabler’ in The Wild One. In it, Johnny was asked what he was rebelling against. He responded with, “What do you got?”
I’d like to remind the folks out on the street, that we have been here before. The country will survive, life will go on, things may get worse, but they will eventually get better. I like to think that things may even be better than before.
Fifteen years from now that angry kid with a bandana masking his/her face, waving a “Not My President” or “Black Lives Matter” sign will likely be pushing a shopping cart with a kid or two in tow, looking for the best price on ground chuck. They will have become George Bailey. And there is nothing wrong with that.