Taking Chances with GhostsRead Now
When I was a kid one of my favorite movies was Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. That's the one where Kevin Costner totally nails the British accent. I watched it often, but not as often as the Bryan Adams music video that came on during the closing credits. Often upon awaking, I'd stumble into the living room to find my 6 year old brother playing air guitar to the music video. He used to wake up, pop the tape into the VCR, fast-forward to the end, listen to the song, and then repeat interminably. This is entirely normal behavior. All six year olds love "Everything I Do, I Do it for You." But I digress.
Robin Hood has been made and remade probably a billion times. If you remake a movie a billion times you're going to have at least a few really smash hits. That might be why Robin Hood, in some form or other, is a perennial favorite. If you grew up with fox Robin Hood, you know what I mean. Also, if you've shared the gut busting joy of watching Robin Hood: Men in Tights (Mel Brooks), you know what I mean. Robin Hood is the greatest super hero that has neither super powers nor incredible wealth. He's just a normal guy with a murderous aim and a penchant for thievery. And we all love him for it. He's like Bernie Sanders, but without the crippling servitude to a political party or the several luxury properties or that undefinable quality that begs one to make fun of him. Also, on testosterone therapy. Robin Hood is one of us.
Except not. What if Prince John--or in the case of the Costner version, the Sherriff of Nottingham-- issued an edict that we must all remain indoors or else be taxed? What if those nasty, chain-mail clad soldiers went roaming about the forest looking for day hikers? What if Robin Hood found some of them carrying a boy named Wolf (Wolf???) off to the dungeons for trying feed his family, but in so doing had to violate the edict? We all know what Robin Hood would do. "Let him go," he'd say with American authority. And they would.
Every week more evidence suggests that covid-19 isn't nearly as bad as was first thought. Antibodies are proving that far more people have had it than it was possible to know, and with every person that lived through the virus, the virus itself becomes less deadly. It's nearing the mortality rate of the flu.
The CDC reported on April 4 of this year that the death toll of the 2019-2020 flu season is between 34,000 and 62,000. The current death toll of Covid-19 is right around 45,000. Dr. Fauci said two weeks ago that he expects it top out at around 60,000. 60,000 deaths from a virus is certainly a tragedy, whether they be from an old virus or a new one. It's a shame that these deaths happened, and maybe restrictions on our freedoms will save lives, but at what cost?
The real problem with this quarantine, whether or not the virus is as bad as we think, is not one of physical health at all. It's one of humanity. There are intangible things that make us human, and we're destroying them. Why do we love Robin Hood? Is it because he takes money from the rich? Is it because he gives that money to the poor? No. Our political system does the same to a degree, but we don't love our political system. If you had a friend that robbed your wealthy neighbor and gave you half of what he stole, you would likely be too concerned about ethics and justice and the police to love him for it.
It's cool that Robin Hood can split one arrow with another arrow, but that's not why we love him either. Although I do love him a little more because he can hit several targets with one shot. But I digress.
We love Robin Hood because he makes possible human triumph. He enters a world of inhumanity and default quarantine, and restores it.
On one hand you have the ruling class. People who are defined by excess wealth, greed, and power, and this inhuman action destroys their humanity. They oppress their fellows and sacrifice their sense of justice. On the other hand you have the common folk. These people are pushed down into the dirt, forced into an effective quarantine, made to slave and labor, and poach for their food, and they are allowed to keep nothing of what they earn. Their humanity has been stolen and they are separated from civilization. They are angry but powerless.
But Robin Hood. He is the one that comes into that world and provides justice. He balances the scales of human greed and human oppression. He refuses to let his soul die. There's a scene in Prince of Thieves when Costner first arrives at the Sherwood village. He suggests they fight the enemy but is met by one objection after another. Finally, one man says, "but what about our kin? They've taken all they got too!"
Robin Hood levels his gaze at the man and replies, "Then by God we take it back."
But Robin Hood doesn't come frolicking down and hand them their humanity on a platter, oh no. That's not how humanity is given. He raises them to a position where they can participate in action that is human, and this participation is what restores their humanity. They become industrious. They begin making bows and arrows. They eat good food and drink good beer. They gather with one another and hone their crafts and skills. They learn in community.
They work collectively towards a common goal, and they become true men, women, and children.
And here is the point of this post: Quarantine dehumanizes. Quarantine turns humans into what the Sherwood villagers were before Robin Hood: scared and weak non humans. We eat alone. We drink alone. We become idle. With every week that we are forced to lived outside of common human experience, we become less human, for we are prohibited from participating in humanity.
This is not healthy. In quarantine, our souls die. And so we must make a difficult decision.
When the sheriff's men chased Robin Hood, Azeem, and Duncan right against the edge of the forest, they were forced to choose between hiding in the haunted forest or fighting a fight they could never win. About the forest, Duncan warned, "it's filled with ghosts!"
Robin Hood replied, with all the American conviction Kevin Costner could muster, "Either we take our chances with the ghosts, or we become ghosts ourselves," and disappeared into the haunted forest.
And that difficult decision is what determines whether we are human, or whether we are quarantined.
Peter Embry lives in East Texas with his wife, six children, and English Springer Spaniel, Jasmine. He stays sane by Eastern Orthodoxy, cold showers, coffee, and smoking brisket and pipe tobacco.