The police in the Bahamas have captured the “Barefoot Bandit,” Colton Harris-Moore. After two years on the run, the 19 year old fugitive is behind bars, after having been arrested after a high speed boat chase. Harris-Moore was taken into custody in shackles, true to his nic, barefoot.
There is a Face Book page, dedicated to Colton Harris-Moore, with 71,000 friends. Tee-shirts have been sold with the message “Run, Colton, run!” and “Fly, Colton, fly!”
(Harris-Moore has allegedly stolen five small aircraft, taught himself how to fly and crashed landed in the Bahamas after a 1,000 mile flight in a plane he stole in Indiana.)
Colton has become a folk hero over the past two years. Like Bonnie and Clyde before him, his exploits have made front page news and earned him a rabid following. It should be noted, of course, that Colton has not been alleged to have killed anyone.
So, why do we tend to glorify outlaws?
The afore mentioned Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger, Jesse James and Billy the Kid have all been given a place in American folklore, despite their violent pasts. Even D.B. Cooper has his fan club. BTK was a folk legend until he turned out to be just Dennis Rader.
We glorify outlaws, in my not so humble opinion, because they do what we fantasize about doing – running from the law and getting away with it.
What does our fascination with outlaws say about us?
On one hand, the American thought is “hang ’em high!” or “lock ’em up and throw away the key!”
On the other hand, we celebrate the outlaw. We root for him (or her) to continue to evade Law Enforcement and continue with their illegal activities.
Which will it be?
Colton Harris-Moore is likely to get twelve or more years in prison. Will his Face Book admirers still be around when he is paroled? Will the “cult of personality” that surrounds him still be foursquare behind him or will they have found a new “outlaw” to rally behind?
(The thread photo is not of the author. My beard is white.)
William Stephenson Clark