The Lone Ranger and American Heritage

The Lone Ranger represents the American ideals of justice, strength, and courage.  His ruggedness, a staple of the hero prototype in American westerns, parallels John Wayne’s film characters, James Arness’ Matt Dillon of Gunsmoke, and the Cartwright boys of Bonanza.

His travails as the surviving Texas Ranger in an ambush — hence the nickname “Lone Ranger” — thrilled audiences with portrayals on radio, on television, and in movies.  Beginning in 1933, The Lone Ranger aired on radio till the mid-1950s.

The iconic television show starring Clayton Moore and John Hart in the title role gave 221 episodes from 1949 to 1956, plus a spinoff of two movies starring Moore. It was the pinnacle of success for the character.

The Western, a genre prized by television and movie producers till the 1970s, has a unique place in American culture as a setting for stories involving heroes and villains.  The good guy, usually wearing a white hat, wins over greed, avarice, or whatever sins are committed by the bad guys.  The Lone Ranger character fits the paradigm.  Perfectly.  Justice prevails.  It is, after all, is a concept valued by American society, not to mention the overseers of popular culture giving audiences escape, entertainment, and perhaps hope that an ideal can be achieved.

The Lone Ranger’s stature as an American character steeped in justinian concepts gave a platform for an explanation of American ideals passed from generation to generation, beginning with the fellas designing the blueprint for American government, rights of citizens, and freedom from tyranny.  We stand on their shoulders, imperfect people striving to fulfill the vision of a more perfect union.

The concepts of justice, freedom, and liberty are appealing.  Paradisiacal, even.  But we are entrusted with them so we can build a bridge for succeeding generations.  They are, indeed, the cornerstones of American Heritage.  In a radio show episode from June 1948, the Lone Ranger explains the concept of American Heritage to his nephew — Dan Reid, Jr.

“Our forefathers were men among whom uncommon valor was a common virtue.  Those men have handed down a great heritage which you, and others like you, must protect and preserve.  It is the heritage of every American.  The Right to live as free people in a land where there is true equality of opportunity.

It is your duty to be eternally vigilant — prepared at all times to fight those who dare to challenge our way of life.  And you must build.  It is your duty to make of this a greater nation — to build homes and farms and villages — mills, factories, and great cities.

Property is the fruit of labor.  That some should be rich shows that others may become rich, and hence is encouragement to industry and enterprise.  Abraham Lincoln said:  ‘Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another.  But let him labor diligently and build one for himself.  Thus, by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built.’

You have for your own a great nation — together with the will — the heart — the courage to make it even greater.  This is your heritage.  This is the heritage of every American.”

Amen.

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