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We've been humbugged

Posted By Burt Prelutsky On 07/24/2012 @ 7:51 pm In Commentary,Opinion | No Comments

In October 1869, there came news that workmen digging a well at a farm in Cardiff, a town near Syracuse, N.Y., had uncovered a petrified 12-foot giant.

The owner of the farm erected a huge tent over the giant and was soon charging people a quarter to see the attraction. Soon, the price went to 50 cents, and still the crowds came. When a group of Syracuse businessmen offered the farmer the fantastic sum of $37,500 for the giant, he sold.

It turned out to be a good investment because once the giant was placed on display in a Syracuse storefront, the local economy enjoyed a boom. Eventually, there came a day when archaeologists examined the giant and announced it to be a fraud. At which point, a factory owner named George Hull admitted that he had commissioned the hoax to prove how gullible Americans were.

Americans may be gullible, but they know what they want to see, be it the Cardiff Giant or the Kardashians. And so the crowds of tourists continued to line up.

It was at this point that P.T. Barnum, who was seeking a major attraction because his American Museum in New York had recently burned down, offered to take the giant off their hands for $60,000. When his offer was rebuffed, the great showman decided to commission his own replica. When it was built, he advertised it as the real Cardiff Giant, insisting that the original was a fake. In response, it was one of the Syracuse businessmen, not Barnum, who observed that there’s a sucker born every minute.

Although he didn’t utter the famous line that is usually attributed to him, Barnum did say: “The American people love to be humbugged.”

And it was that bit of folk wisdom that L. Frank Baum, who had watched the hoax unfold, employed when he eventually wrote “The Wizard of Oz.” When Dorothy’s little dog Toto pulls aside the curtain to reveal that the great and powerful Oz is nothing but a little old man who created his terrifying illusions with wires, smoke and ventriloquism, he sadly confesses, “I am a humbug.”

The Scarecrow scolds the con man, telling him he should be ashamed of himself for deluding Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the citizens of the Emerald City – to which the erstwhile wizard replies, “I am. I certainly am. But it was the only thing I could do. The people were eager to be deluded and were willing to do anything I wished them to do.”

I would suggest that Barack Obama is our own Cardiff Giant. The people – particularly white Americans – were eager to be deluded by a black man who promised to absolve them of their historical guilt. In vowing to be the first post-racial president, this man, half white/part Arab, gave the impression that a vote for him would automatically erase a shameful history that included two centuries of slavery and roughly one century of Jim Crow laws.

But just like those other two earlier frauds, he was nothing more than a humbug that had been cobbled together in a Chicago cellar by certain interested parties, including the likes of David Axelrod, Rahm Emanuel, Valerie Jarrett, Van Jones, William Ayers, Jeremiah Wright and George Soros.

And just as their ancestors had done, large numbers of gullible Americans lined up to hand over their quarters and half dollars, not to mention their votes, and gaze in wonder at the big phony.

In a related matter, I just heard that in his preparation for the presidential debates, Obama has decided to have John Kerry represent Mitt Romney. It is Kerry’s contention that being from Massachusetts, the state Romney governed for four years, nobody is in a better position to know what he is likely to say. Offhand, I would have thought that Kerry was better suited to run in a stakes race than to stand in for Romney. After all, when it comes to politics, he is strictly a horse’s patootie, while, if you judged him solely by his looks, you would guess that he eats his meals out of a feed bag.

At this point, Romney hasn’t yet announced whom he will use as a stand-in for Obama. Judging by the stiff and stilted delivery that has become Obama’s signature over the past few years, as he’s attempted to combine gravitas with an imperiousness unseen since the salad days of Benito Mussolini, I would advise Romney to practice with something like the Audio-Animatronic Abe Lincoln that delivers platitudes hour after hour at Disneyland.


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