Thanks to fans and foes

 

I've avoided writing about

the Charlie Sheen situation for weeks now on the theory that there are many

more important stories going on in the world. Surely, the story of a Hollywood

actor's meltdown can't be as important as the fact that our state's lawmakers

are political refugees or that tens of thousands may be dead in Japan.

And I am right. There are

many, many items in the news that trump Sheen's fights with his studio, the

police and the courts. But none of those stories have resonated as deeply with

Americans in the past few weeks.

Surely, there is no need to

recount Sheen's story by now. He was fired last week from his job on TV's most

popular comedy, after public battles with the show's producer and Sheen's

refusal to enter rehab for substance abuse issues.

I've never watched an entire

episode of Sheen's series; from what I gather, it's a typical Red State comedy

enjoyed by my grandmother and nobody else I know. I'm usually watching Intervention at 9 p.m. on Monday if I'm not reading or playing

videogames.

But the media circus

surrounding the story has not only been impossible to escape, it's also been

the most entertaining program I've seen in years. The degree to which one man

can hijack our television news and dominate the headlines is unprecedented in

recent times.

Why has the Sheen story been so

popular? It isn't because another star is having a meltdown; the media has fed

us those stories for decades now. And it isn't because Sheen himself is such a

paragon of virtue; his arrests for domestic violence and his preference for

prostitutes makes him a less-than-sympathetic character.

The reason Sheen's issues

have been so compelling is that his actions, and his employer's reactions, have

made him what John Lennon and many others have aspired to be: a true

working-class hero.

How many times have Americans

been fired from jobs for what they see as bullshit reasons? And how many people

have wanted the opportunity to not only tell off their bosses but to do it in

the most public way possible? Most of us, I'd gather.

There have been several

occasions in my own life where I would have welcomed a public forum to tell my

side of the story after being fired from jobs where I had not only been

productive but had also generated huge amounts of revenue for the folks who let

me go.

In an era where trade unions

have been demonized and in some cases outlawed, it's never been more clear that

big business hates its workers and would fire them all if necessary to please

their shareholders.

The millions who've lost

their jobs due to outsourcing or because their employers wanted to cut costs

are watching Sheen's antics and cheering him on, whether they ever watched Two

and a Half Men or not.

The official explanation that

Sheen's drug problems led to his dismissal falls short. He's been abusing

drugs, by his own admission, for years. It was only after he criticized his

employers that they fired him.

Again, this resonates with

American workers. Employers don't want to hear that they're wrong, even —

and especially — when they are. It's far easier to fire the messenger

than to fix the problem about which the messenger's complaining.

After watching the

legislatures of Indiana and Wisconsin — who seem not to care at all about

the teachers and public-sector workers in their states and, in fact, would

terminate them all and replace them with outsource workers from Mumbai if they

could — Sheen has become a proxy for all the pissed-off workers about to

be fired in the United States.

His catchphrases, whether

inspired by drugs or not, have become our catchphrases. We all like to think

that our opinions about our idiot employers are "torpedoes of truth." And we

all want to believe that we are "winning," even after we've been told to clear

out our desks.

Whether he intended to do so

or not, Sheen has done quite an improbable thing: turn a millionaire actor with

a history of drug abuse into a symbolic figure for all the hardworking men and

women who've been wronged by their rich bosses.

He may be an imperfect

messenger, but his message is like that of revolutionaries everywhere: The

system is corrupt, its leaders are immoral and capricious, and an honest man

can't catch a break from big business.

Unlike the millions

victimized by the Bush Depression of 2008-12, Sheen will end up fine. In fact,

I think he'll eventually be rehired for his old job after the current fervor

dies down.

But politicians would be

myopic to ignore the underlying issue that this issue has brought to the

surface. Workers are tired of being treated as little better than slaves and

tired of making others rich while they work for peanuts.

So we're on your side,

Charlie! Keep throwing those fastballs at the millionaires! Keep winning! If

you can, maybe we can too.

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