12/21/2010 I baked cookies this weekend and in between the baking, I watched Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.
If you’re not familiar with the movie, Longfellow Deeds lives a quiet life in a small town in VT in the Great Depression, until he inherits 20 million dollars. Deeds encounters a slew of opportunistic predators, including Mr. Cedar, his late uncle’s attorney and a reporter who pretends to be a poor working girl.
Disillusioned and about to chuck it all, Deeds gets the idea to give away fully-equipped farms to homeless families who are willing to work the land. Having found another relative who might claim the estate, the attorney takes Deeds to court to declare him mentally unstable.
The estate attorney’s dynamic plea to the judge is:
“In these times, with the country incapacitated by economic ailments… and in danger with an undercurrent of social unrest… the promulgation of such a weird, fantastic and impractical plan- as contemplated by the defendant–is capable of fomenting a disturbance… from which the country may not soon recover. It is our duty to stop it.
Our government is fully aware of its difficulties. It can pull itself out of its economic rut… without the assistance of Mr. Deeds or any other crackpot. His attempted action must therefore be attributed… to a diseased mind, afflicted with hallucinations of grandeur… and obsessed with an insane desire to become a public benefactor.”
Later, in his defense, Deeds says:
“It’s like I’m out in a big boat, and I see one fellow in a rowboat… who’s tired of rowing and wants a free ride and another who’s drowning.
Who would you expect me to rescue? Mr. Cedar, who wants a free ride?
Or those men out there who are drowning? Any ten-year-old child will give you the answer to that.”
Between watching this and Meet John Doe, another brilliant Frank Capra movie, I was struck with dialog and concepts that some people would label “socialist!”, and yet both Cooper and Capra were staunch Republicans.
As we celebrate the Winter Solstice, which is the entrance of the Sun into Capricorn, we connect with the sign of the status quo, foundations and business. I invite you to contemplate what makes a country, a business or a principle responsible. Spend time today considering your goals, no matter how fragile or wandering they may be.