Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg: Victory for Strangers, Heathens, Wastrels!
Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg are professors of History at LSU and coauthors of "Madison and Jefferson" (Random House),
Before we get to the persistence of class warfare in our politics, let’s talk about Skinch Painter. In 1900, when the San Francisco Examiner tracked him down, he was 78, “hale, hearty, and contented.” He hadn’t inherited a penny, but neither had he worked a day in his life. “He has never borrowed a dollar, nor stolen one,” the column read. “He has never been a tramp nor a beggar. He has never done a day’s work in exchange for money … Yet he has lived.”
One day, when he was in his teens, he said to himself, “Look here, Skinch Painter, this old world owes you a living, and all you’ve got to do is collect it.” Wandering the Ozarks of Missouri, he inhabited a cave and relied on nature for his food and clothing. He hunted, fished and gathered nuts and berries, wearing only animal skins and going barefoot.
“Labor is a useless sin,” said Skinch. “The time a man spends working is just so much time lost from living.”
We can just about see Fox News sending a camera crew out to interview Skinch, and one of its handsomely paid straight men wrapping up the piece with an offhand, “See, you don’t need government handouts. If you don’t want to work, you can do what this guy does. At least he’s not a taker. The rest of us in this country, we’ll continue to work for a living.”...
comments powered by Disqus
- Recalling a Film From the Liberation of the Camps
- Skull Fossil Offers New Clues on Human Journey From Africa
- Are crude conspiracies right? Research shows nations really do go to war over oil
- Famed SC civil rights protesters have convictions erased
- A Fight About Taxing The Wealthy, A Century Before President Obama
- Claire Strom to Step Down as Editor of Agricultural History
- Joan Peters’s legacy assessed by one of her fiercest critics, Norman Finkelstein
- West Point historian says if his cadets can understand the history of war, so can Congress
- Australian historian Alan Atkinson wins $100,000 literary prize
- From his perch in Saudi Arabia, Princeton’s Mark Cohen says Jews and Muslims should remember they used to get along