The Rip Post



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Lima Beans and Pygmies

        Is President Bush having perception problems? He seems so confused about reality that you have to wonder if he's backslid into dipsomania. Or perhaps is dabbling in something even more mind-altering than Colt 45 premium malt liquor.
        It was recently revealed that the President refers to environmentalists as "green, green lima beans."   
        While it is laudable that Mr. Bush can correctly identify the color of this nutritious legume---and even celebrate its lovely pastel hue by repeating it---this is disturbing. Environmentalists should not be confused with beans--- unless, perhaps, the president was trying to say "beings," which is possible, considering that he still cannot pronounce the name of the annihilistic weapons he wields, "nuclear." (He is stuck on the dyslexic "nu-cue-lur.") Or perhaps he thinks that the actual term is "human beans?"
        Let's hope so. Let's hope that's all it is. Let's hope that the president does not actually believe that environmentalists are lima beans. That would be a serious mistake on his part. Lima beans are inanimate objects that have little influence over the environment, outside of their own corner of the eco-system and their nutrient value. Environmentalists, on the other hand, are living creatures of the species homo sapiens who are dedicated to improving the health of the eco-system that supports them, and all life on Earth. Important distinction.
        There is another possibility here, which is, in its way, equally worrisome. That is, that the president tends to speak with the slang sensibility of a little boy.  One can easily imagine his mother, the former first lady Barbara Bush, telling wee Georgie, "eat your green, green lima beans!" It seems a likely route by which such a cute expression might take up residence in a person's mind.
        This explanation probably makes the most sense. Given that Mr. Bush is said by many, including former speechwriter David Frum (who coined the "axis of evil" phrase) to possess a nasty temper, it seems likely that the "green green lima beans" utterance was a sarcastic outburst. If so, it is intriguing that the president invokes child-like sing-song when perturbed. Is this an endearing quirk, or psychological peculiarity? Wrinkle, or regression? Either way, one must worry about him getting testy with Vladimir Putin, or the United Nations, and breaking out in, say, "nah, nah, Nanny goat."
        There is also the issue of leadership and diplomacy here, but apparently this is not a high concern for this president, when it comes to environmentalists. Still, if Mr. Bush is seeking to display his contempt for this group, which includes most of the reputable scientists on the planet, one would think he might employ more forceful invective than "green green lima beans." Of course, it could be that the president really, really hated lima beans as a boy, and this remains his most brutal, cutting insult.
        Or maybe not. Maybe it is "pygmy."
        Mr. Bush's use of this term in reference to North Korean murderer-dictator Kim Jong Il also calls into question the dependability of his perceptions. (The president charged Kim with being a pygmy in a recent meeting with senators.)
          Let's examine this. Is Kim a pygmy? A pygmy is, according to standard definition:
        "A racial designation of dark-skinned people who live in equatorial rain forests and average less than 59 in. (150 cm) in height. Some studies make a distinction between Negrillos, who live in Africa, and Negritos, who live in Southeast Asia, New Guinea, and the Philippines: this classification system is rarely used today."
        It is true that Kim Jong Il is short, although not as short as a pygmy (even without the pompadour.) His skin has the yellowish cast of an Asiatic, and everything about his physiogomy, culture, and language suggests strongly that he is Korean. Let alone that he tyrannically and savagely rules the pitiable country of. . .North Korea. 
        Yet Mr. Bush has branded him a "pygmy." This raises several questions: does the president have vision problems? Is he confused over geography (given that he had never traveled outside North America prior to election, this would be understandable)? Is he hallucinating? To be fair, the answer to these questions is probably "no."
        Once again, as with "green green lima beans," the president seems to have been casting aspersions in a fit of pique. And who wouldn't? After all, Kim Jong Il has the U.S. over the proverbial barrel, with the apparently bonafide threat of nuclear war. (That this was prompted by threats made against North Korea by the administration, culminating with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's boast that the U.S. could fight both Iraq and North Korea, is ignored by Mr. Bush.)
        Anger aside, the president's outburst raises an interesting, if lesser question: why does he consider "pygmy" a term of derision? Did he have a bad experience with one? With a short person? Did a pygmy threaten his father? Pygmies are really rather sympathetic, if not pathetic, creatures. Recent reports say that full-sized African tribesmen employ the little fellows as hunters, and those who don't bring back enough kill are. . .eaten. Why does Mr. Bush compare the maniac ruler of North Korea with dark-skinned highly skilled tiny hunters? Does he harbor a secret penchant for cannibalism? We may never know.
        Perhaps, like "green green lima beans," it is just a term of derision of elementary school ilk. Perhaps the president, who has difficulty with language, thinks that "despot" is a place where you catch a bus, and "tyrant" a type of ant. Whatever the case, it does not seem likely that insulting a paranoiac sadist dictator notoriously sensitive about his height---by calling him a "pygmy"---will do much to defuse the current nuclear standoff, or advance the cause of peace and understanding.
        Or, as the president might say, "peas and understanding."


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