When I was half the size I am now, one-fifth the age, and twice as wise, one of my favorite cartoons was Tooter Turtle. Since I enjoy hearing rain on a roof, I've always been envious of turtles. In Tooter's case, I'd pass on being his uniform bilious green (although I do have a sailor cap. I don't wear it in public, but only when I write articles). Tooter, fortunately, unlike most turtles, wasn't handicapped with the dopey Robert Mitchum eyes. This made him look intelligent. Sadly, he wasn't.
Tooter was a curious, good-natured, not-very-bright, not-very-knowledgeable turtle who always wanted to be "what he is not." He was too innocent, and too stubborn, to know his limits. He always wanted to be President, or Secretary of Defense, or editor of the Weekly Standard, positions easily within normal terrapin intelligence. Unfortunately, Tooter was dumb even for a turtle.
In the cartoons, Tooter time-traveled to the future or past, or zipped over to a parallel universe, where he invariably ended up being chased by some guy with a can opener or somebody else who wanted to make soup. Then he would yell, "Helllp! Mr. Wizard! HELLLLP!" and Mr. Wizard, who was a friendly-looking talking lizard with a magic wand and one of those Merlin-type pointed caps with stars and moons on it, would intone, "Drizzle, drazzle, druzzle, drome, time for this one to come home." Then Tooter would spin in circles against one of those Twilight Zone spiral backgrounds and be spirited to safety.
I almost always find great wisdom in good cartoons. Bad cartoons, like Dan Rather or Ted Koppel's hair, I find not only worthless but also wacko. Ezra Pound, a good poet who was wacko but occasionally wise, once said, "The artist is the antenna of the race." It's a good comment, and there is great wisdom in it. I suspect good artists somehow are more in tune with our unconscious archetypes than most people, and because of this have access to a wisdom that sometimes they don't even understand. And cartoons, in my opinion, can be the finest art. At their best they both entertain and educate.
Tooter, for example, is the archetype of the Dumb Kid. Most children have every one of Tooter's traits. Even though today we are involved in the Cult of the Child, almost considering them little gods whom it takes a village idiot like Hillary Clinton to raise, let's face facts. They're stupid. Not only stupid, but innocent, ignorant and stubborn. They can't even tie their shoes. They fall over all the time, sometimes for no discernable reason. Don't keep an eye on them, and they'll jump off the roof using a blanket as a parachute. I should know; I tried it. They'll follow a ball into the street right in front of a car – and other dumb kids will follow them. They see monsters everywhere, are annoyingly loud, and pick unnecessary fights.
Mr. Wizard is the archetype of the Good Dad. He's intelligent, wise and knowledgeable. He lets Tooter do what he wants, but he always keeps an eye on him and can get him safely away. He doesn't smother him. He lets Tooter get experience in life. He's thoughtful and firm, but not overbearing. He has a sense of humor, and doesn't take himself too seriously. And he's got a gun and knows how to use it, even if it is disguised as a magic wand.
Two other "good dads" on TV are Ward Cleaver of Leave It To Beaver and Andy Taylor in The Andy Griffth Show. Two well-known "dumb kids" on TV are Gilligan and Barney Fife. Gilligan is Tooter with clumsiness added. Barney is Tooter corrupted with just a pinch of political power.
One of the funniest scenes I've ever seen in Gilligan's Island was when the castaways lit some logs so they spelled SOS to a passing satellite. Gilligan stumbed over them so they formed "SOL." Clumsy of Gilligan, but not of the show's creators..
One scene that sticks in my mind about the Andy Griffith Show is when Barney, shaking with fear, asks Andy if he can "put my bullet in my pistol now" when they are about to confront some criminals.
Andy, who understood very well that Barney was a child, didn't allow him to carry a loaded pistol. And he was only allowed one bullet, which he could put in the pistol when Andy said it was okay to do so.
How do these cartoon archetypes relate to real life? Unfortunately, our President fits the Barney Fife archetype. Dubya is good-natured, not very bright or knowledgeable, and certainly doesn't know his limits. If he did, he wouldn't be attempting to start World War III, and trying with way more than one bullet. Like a dumb kid, he's ignorant, innocent and stubborn. He's admitted he didn't know who Leonardo deCaprio is, and was oblivious to the fact there are blacks in Brazil. He even has trouble talking (he called Greeks "Grecians"), although such verbal pretzelness is really part of the Tooter archetype.
Before 9/11, Dubya fit the Tooter archetype. After 9/11, when he started swelling, Blob-like, with political power, he morphed into the Barney. Barney was blustery and arrogant on the outside, but putty on the inside. He was always yelling, "You've got to nip it in the bud!" but because of his rubber-band-powered balsa-wood-plane brain-power always looked to Andy for guidance.
This is what Dubya is doing. His stubborn but ignorant devotion to attacking Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia is based on his belief that his warren terrism will "nip it in the bud." Unfortunately for the whole world, Dubya is not being advised by a "good dad" like Mr. Wizard, Andy or Ward. He's being advised by "evil dads" like Richard Perle, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and William Kristol.
The Evil Dad is cowardly, power-mad and wants to control everything, including, if he can, the world. He lies and is manipulative, back-stabbing and untrustworthy. He is concerned only about himself and his interests. He is a chicken-hawk armchair general who would use force to make others to fight for him. He is abusive and arrogant (remember how Rumsfelt treated the press?) He thinks he is always right and everyone else is stupid.
The Evil Dad is also represented by the archetype of Satan, a monster who saw others not as people but things, and was unconcerned with the mass destuction of the innocent. In cartoons, Simon bar Sinister of The Underdog Show and The Brain of Pinky and the Brain are the archetypes of the Evil Dad. That such villains are most always shown as weisenheimer mutant dwarfs is because they are symbols of the villains' lack of morality (or, to use philodoxer William Bennett's words, "moral clarity").
The psychiatrist M. Scott Peck has an interesting defintion of evil: "I define evil, then, as the exercise of political power – that is, the imposition of one’s will upon others by overt or covert coercion – in order to avoid extending one’s self for the purpose of nurturing spiritual growth." When Jesus was tempted by the Devil, what he was offered was political power. He turned it down. Today, politically, all the neocons fit the archetype of the Evil Dad And of Satan. Dubya is the dumb kid, the Tooter-cum-Barney Fife, who looks to them for guidance. Such is what our own childish ignorance and innocence has given to us, and what war and empire will ultimately take away, in blood and treasure. The pagan and murderous Roman Empire is not dead, but lives on in the American version of it. Most citizens, whiling away the time with bread and circuses, are unaware of this. For now.
At first, I gave Dubya the benefit of the doubt. I still believe him to be smarter than the Gore-bot, whose skull is little more than a hollow gourd with a few brain cells rattling around inside. But Dubya is not a Hamlet, who only pretended to be retarded but in reality was fooling everyone. I now believe Dubya just ain't that bright. He is, unfortunately, Tooterish in brain. He reminds me a bit of The Clean Old Man in A Hard Day's Night, who sneered, "Books? What can you learn from books?"
It would be a better world if Dubya paid attention to Mr. Wizard's most famous saying: "Be what you is, and not what you is not. Folks who do that are the happiest lot!"
What do these cartoon archetypes tell us about the results of Dubya's and the neocons' misguided plans? The same as it always has been for Gilligan, Tooter and Barney. Catastrophe. Only this time, there is no Good Dad to save them. Or us.
Or is there?
Ward, Andy and Mr. Wizard are what American men – and fathers – should be. They are not disgraces to manhood, as the neocons are (anyone who avoids military service, but now expects others to fight while they won't, is a coward). I consider all three of them to illustrate the original American character, the one produced by the classical liberalism this country was founded upon. Today, classical liberalism goes by the name of libertarianism.
The world of Leave It To Beaver would not be such a bad place to live, even with Eddie Haskell and Lumpy Rutherford, who are really more annoyances than anything else. None could even come close to the revoltitude of, say, a fat drunken socialist slob like Teddy Kennedy, who left a woman in a car at the bottom of a lake while he ran to save his political career (and who then put on a neckbrace, pretending he had been injured). The government is barely visible in Beaver World. There's an occasional friendly fireman sitting in a chair in front of the firehouse, smoking a pipe, and the cops are peace officers – not "police" officers – who act as they should, which means helping the public and not trying to pay their salaries by sticking their noses into what is none of their business. Like whether or not people wear seatbelts.
Mayberry is also a place where there is minimal government and maximum culture. There is an inverse relationship between the two. The bigger the State, the less civilization.
Ever notice that cartoon villains always want political power, even though it means destroying everything? Hillary, for an example, wants to be President even if she has to demolish the country to do it. (Whenever I see a picture of Hillary, what my mind conjures up is an image of Gollum of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. Both have the same cold, dead, hate-filled eyes of the psychopath.)
The culture of Mayberry is one that supports a town full of lovable eccentrics, with the kind of sheriff that all decent people wish existed in their city. Personally I'd rather put up with Barney Fife than Rudy Guiliani. Mayberry's idyllic life can't be created by the State, but it can be destroyed by it. As The Simpson's Chief Wiggins so accurately observed, "I didn't say the government couldn't hurt you. I said it couldn't help you."
Tooter's World is the best of all. There is no "government" but there is law. Natural Law, which is the only real law that exists. Law that is discovered, not "created." If anyone thinks laws can be created, jump off a roof and on the way down tell the ground there's a law in a book that it can't hit you. Just as physical laws are discovered, so are economic and social laws. If they're not Natural Laws, then they're just words in a book.
Tooter keeps violating Natural Law, keeps paying for his transgressions, but is fortunate enough to have Mr. Wizard save his shell. If only such fantasies existed in reality.
What will save this country is its returning to the original philosophy that it was founded upon – classical liberalism, or its more mature form of conservative libertarianism. Under it, we'll have more Andy Taylors and Ward Cleavers. Under the semi-socialism/fascism we now have, what we get are – ugh, yuck, I have to write this quickly before I throw up – the Clintons, Teddy Kennedy, Chuck Schumer, Richard Gephardt, William Bennett, Madeleine Albright and Janet Reno.
Of the three worlds I described, I would prefer to live in Tooter's. Actually, I'd like to be Mr. Wizard. Unlike Plato, I don't believe in philosopher-kings. I believe in philosopher-wizards, like Harry Potter's Professor Dumbledore. If anyone in the "government" tried to violate anyone's rights, I would zotz them with my wand. ("Income tax?" BLAM.)
It would be fun. To paraphrase the Charlie Daniels' song, I'd have them running like their feet were on fire and their...um, derrieres were catchin'. Okay, I'm lying. If I had my way, both would be on fire.
Or maybe I'll sit in a lawn chair, drink a Pina' Colada and have my Pug chase the guilty around. Hey, in Tooter World a Pug may not be exactly what it is in this world, right?
I suspect Mr. Wizard would be smiling. I certainly am.