Wednesday, September 21, 2016
The Fable of the Bear, the Pioneer and the Chihuahua
By Bob Ferris
I keep thinking of an image. It is a quintessential American image of a pioneer being attacked by a large bear with gnashing teeth and the intrepid pioneer’s knife flashing in profound but tenuous defense. This image in many forms has defined the promise of America, but it is not immutable and should change as America changes.
Right now that image is in my mind only the pioneer character is played by Hillary Clinton. It’s modernized in other areas too as the bear is Donald J. Trump who so represents the idea that men can only aspire to the Presidency that he thought the size of his penis was an appropriate topic for a presidential debate. The wild bear fighting the civilizing pioneer is a classic past-versus-future scenario which is in many ways what this current battle national between progressive and conservatives is really all about.
I like bears a lot but at the same time I understand their nature. They are wonderful creatures in many ways but have a number of character and behavioral traits that make them truly spectacular in wilderness settings, but you would not want them handling delicate negotiations or having their claws on any buttons you might not want pushed when the bear is acting particularly bear-like. Trump plays his bear role perfectly and unerringly. He snarls and attacks repeatedly and then shrugs his shoulders quizzically when individuals are offended or injured. He seems to say non-verbally: I am a bear, what did you expect?
Our modern tableau is further complicated because there is also a snapping Chihuahua in the mix that has a firm grip on the buckskins of the pioneer, because the Chihuahua is blind and has trouble telling the difference between the bear who wants to lead us towards wildness and the pioneer leading us towards more civilized times. The Chihuahua is confused because both the bear and the pioneer share some similar, metaphorical odors as they both live in the political wilds of this country. The Chihuahua cannot in any rational calculus defeat either the bear or the pioneer, but can cause the pioneer to lose.
The Chihuahua in this equation is Dr. Jill Stein and this is not saying that Chihuahuas are bad, but they are little dogs that you would never take to fight a bear. The Chihuahua and those who follow her need to understand that with a lot of work from all of us offensive wild odors can be washed off the pioneer but not the bear as it is part and parcel of its nature. But if the bear wins, we all lose and the wildness fomented will impact our generation and the next. In fact it may never be erased.
Now there are those who might say that I miss-read the situation in terms of the risks or that I miss-characterize the potential impact of Dr. Stein. To them I will say that I saw way too many tattooed numbers on people’s arms during my youth to be complacent about Donald Trump Jr’s casual reference to "warming up the gas chamber" in any context or to ignore how eerily similar Don Jr’s comments about Skittles and Syrians was to references to Jews and poisoned mushrooms made in Nazi Germany by a war criminal (1).
To those doubting the threat represented by this imagery I have presented, I will also say that I had a father who took me to do volunteer work at a veteran’s hospital when I was in my early teens so that I could see the true cost of a World War. I remember pointedly rolling these permanently-damaged men into a church service and seeing one with a good portion of his skull missing and his head lulling as he rode in his wheel chair. In the middle of the sermon this beleaguered soul raised his head and in in a loud voice said: I hope we all go to Hell. The gentleman's head quickly went back down after his statement, but by father made his point. Unfortunately, this was long ago and people forget or never knew.
So yes, older folks might understand this threat and the references in a different context and manner than those more removed from the events of World War II. And, no, I don’t think that I am being unduly alarmist in my imagery or rhetoric. We need to ring the bells loudly about Trump and I support Bernie Sanders' strong caution against a third-party protest vote this election because any risk of distraction above zero is not acceptable. If you do not understand this read up on history or talk to someone who does understand.