by RIP RENSE
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
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
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