In the old Peanuts comic strip Linus (the one with the blanket)
believed in what he called the Great Pumpkin. The GP was supposed
to arise from the pumpkin patch every Halloween and distribute
toys to boys and girls. Linus went to the patch every year
and of course the GP never showed up, although sometimes Linus
would find Snoopy masquerading as the Great Pumpkin.
The reason I think of the Great Pumpkin this year is because
in recent weeks, in fact since September 11, we Americans
-- especially the press and media pundits -- have started
to become Linus. We're maintaining an irrational belief in
something that just plainly isn't there. Let's call him the
The Bumpkin, like the Pumpkin is solely a product of wishful
thinking. In the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade
Center and the Pentagon America looked to Washington wanting
to find Abe or FDR. When they weren't there we seem to have
decided to pretend that they were.
"Our fight is against evil people and a government that
houses them. Our fight is against the evildoers, individuals
who think so evil that they're willing to murder innocent
people, and those who house them." -The Great Bumpkin
Evildoers. He repeats this preposterous phrase endlessly
because it apparently marks the beginning and the end of his
understanding of the current situation. Nothing about policy,
history, the turbulent religious conflicts that have tormented
the Middle East for centuries. During his prime time press
conference he hit the bottom of his vocabulary sometime during
the second question. He went on endlessly about the evil and
the doers. The press, who must have realized how unfathomably
simplistic and superficial this was, said nothing. Either
they're afraid of being called unpatriotic or they too want
to believe in the Great Bumpkin.
"How do I respond when I see that in some Islamic countries
there is vitriolic hatred for America? I'll tell you how I
respond: I'm amazed. I'm amazed that there's such misunderstanding
of what our country is about that people would hate us. ...
I just can't believe it because I know how good we are." -
up from pumpkin patch
How can they not like us? We're such good people. These are
not the words of a foreign policy professional who knows the
situation, knows the players and understands the actions that
need to be taken. These are not even the words of a first
year graduate student in International Relations. This is
the kind of shallow non-think that would get you a rather
ugly red "F" on a Political Science term paper at
almost any university. Is anybody out there paying attention?
This dumb bastard can get a lot of people killed.
But nobody says a word when the message coming from our leadership
is confused or contradictory. Go out shopping but watch out
for new terror attacks. The mail is safe but don't worry we're
going to start sterilizing it soon. Live your life normally
but be sure to report any turban-headed guys in crop dusters.
We have to go to war against the "evil one" but
then again we might never find him.
The Bumpkin stood in Shanghai last week as Chinese President
Jiang Zemin publicly bitch-slapped him and his coalition.
Jiang was supportive of U.S. policy but only if no civilians
were killed and the war ended quickly and was not expanded
to any other country. In other words he endorsed much the
opposite of U.S. policy. Did Bumpkin try to diplomatically
sidestep the problem? Did he say the differences could be
resolved? No, he spit out his memorized answer how pleased
he was to have Jiangs solid support. Only the Washington Times
was critical. Of Jiang.
There is no Great Bumpkin. There is no real leadership either.
And sooner or later the people and the pundits are going have
to wake up and see that they're looking at Snoopy in disguise.
But until then we're behaving like the blankey-toting Linus.