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The Great Bumpkin
October 31, 2001
by birdman

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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 Great Bumpkin.

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.

Good grief.

 
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