Back in the day when kids spent many of their leisure hours reading -- as opposed to zooming around the Internet or building up their Abductor Pollicis Brevis [thumb muscles] playing games on the old Xbox -- Hugh Lofting's series of "Dr. Doolittle" novels were a primary passion. For many of the "Baby Boom" generation, the very name "Dr. Doolittle" unlocks the gates of youthful memory and causes such long-forgotten friends as Polynesia, Chee-Chee, Dab-Dab, Cheapside and Tommy Stubbins to magically reappear.
Next to Polynesia, the good doctor's English speaking parrot, my favorite creature in the Lofting menagerie was always "Pushmi-Pullyu," the two-headed antelope first introduced in The Voyages of Dr. Doolittle. [Note: In both the 1967 film and the more recent Eddie Murphy version, Pushmi-Pullyu was a llama.] The creature served as an ideal night watchman for the doctor's zoo, because, as Doolittle tells his assistant, Tommy Stubbins, "He only sleeps with one head at a time . . . the other head stays awake all night." All Doolittle devotees will also recall that whenever Pushmi-Pullyu tried to move, both its heads attempted to go in opposite directions. This of course resulted in a lot of hilarity for the reader and even more false starts and frustrations for the otherwise utile creature.
To youngsters of an earlier generation, this was all great, highly entertaining stuff. Not so for Hugh Lofting; he found it to be "a constant source of shock to me" that children became his primary readers. For it would appear that the original intention of his invention was creating a satiric look at the world through the eyes of talking animals. Indeed, one wonders if Lofting (1886-1947) ever managed to read George Orwell's Animal Farm; when it was published in mid-1945, Dr. Doolittle's creator was already in the throes of his final illness.
It is tempting to believe that if Lofting -- not to mention Orwell -- were alive, well and writing today, he would add an additional element of satire to Pushmi-Pullyu's makeup; a streak of bald-faced mendacity. One can easily imagine one head saying "right," "up" or "yes," with the other simultaneously declaring "left," "down," or "no." If such were the case, if this were the modern incarnation of Pushmi-Pullyu, one could easily conclude that it was undoubtedly a take on today's Republican Party -- a "creature" that can simultaneously speak out of both sides of its mouth, with neither of them telling the truth.
In recent days, American voters -- especially those of us who are Jewish -- have been visited by this new and improved Pushmi-Pullyu on more than one occasion. The first such "visit" came just about a week ago when millions of people living in Broward and Palm Beach Counties, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, opened up their Sunday newspapers to find a DVD entitled "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West." The DVD's lurid cover proudly proclaims that "Obsession" was the "Best Feature Film Winner" at the 2005 Liberty Film Festival. Those who go to the Liberty Film Festival website will see that they are -- in their own words -- "A forum for conservative thought in film." The site also proudly lists which of its favorite film folks are appearing on the Fox TV Network which, not surprisingly, highly endorses "Obsession."
The DVD opens with graphic shots of 9/11 and Muslims chanting "Death to America!" Coming on the heels of yet another Internet campaign to convince voters -- both Jewish and non-Jewish alike -- that Senator Obama is a Muslim, "Obsession" contains a segment called "Denial," which, in the words of the Palm Beach Post's Randy Schultz, " . . . compares the supposed failure to confront Islamic terrorists to the failure to confront Nazi Germany." In other words, Osama bin-Laden and Al-Qaeda in 2008 are Adolf Hitler and the Nazis in 1938. This is what "Pushmi" proclaims. When directly queried, "Pullyu" steadfastly denies that this DVD is directed at any single group' it is only meant to educate.
Right. And pigs are kosher.
(Note: The group that underwrote "Obsession," the "Clarion Fund," is a 501(c)3 whose stated objective is " . . . helping Americans understand that the mainstream media is not adequately conveying the reality of radical Islam." The Clarion Fund website discloses neither its leadership nor its sources of funding, which is highly questionable.)
Another Pushmi-Pullyu "visit" has come via telephone: the notorious spate of so-called "push-polls" directed specifically at Jewish voters. These "polls," claim the sponsoring Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), are solely intended to "understand why Barack Obama continues to have a problem among Jewish voters." This is "Pushmi" speaking. When accused of conducting a "push-poll" whose sole purpose is to scare the daylights out of potential Obama voters in the Jewish community "Pullyu" steadfastly denies that it is anything of the sort.
If it's not a push-poll, then why are they asking "How would you feel about Senator Barack Obama if you knew that:
- He has had a decade long relationship with pro-Palestinian leaders in Chicago?
- The leader of Hamas, Ahmed Yousef, expressed support for Obama and hopes for Obama's victory?
- The church Obama attended is known for its anti-Israel and anti-American remarks?
- Jimmy Carter's anti-Israel national security adviser is one of Barack Obama's foreign policy advisors?
- Barack Obama was the member of a board (sic) that funded a pro-Palestinian charitable organization? and
- Barack Obama called for holding a summit of Muslim nations, excluding Israel, if ever elected president?"
And Pullyu has the audacity to proclaim that this is not a push-poll!
Lastly, countless members of the Jewish community here in South Florida recently received a mailer from the Republican Party of Florida. It was a multi-colored tri-fold, the front of which shows John McCain waving at everyone. The caption to the right of the photo contains a quote, all in CAPITAL LETTERS:
THOSE WHO BELIEVE THAT ISRAEL REQUIRES A U.S. ADMINISTRATION THAT DOES NOT PRESSURE IT INTO FOLLOWING A PATH THAT IT DOES NOT WANT TO TAKE AND IS COMMITTED TO STOPPING THE IRANIAN DANGER THROUGH MILITARY MEANS IF NECESSARY WILL PREFER McCAIN OVER OBAMA
Underneath the quote is another from the June 5, 2008 Jerusalem Post, also in CAPITAL LETTERS:
"NEXT PRESIDENT WILL SHAPE THE FUTURE OF THE MIDDLE EAST."
Nowhere does the slick flier tell us whether the first quote was also from the Post. In checking its website for that date, I could not find the first statement, only the second.
What really got to us about this flier was that from the way it was addressed, we could tell how (and from where) the Republican Party of Florida had gotten the address of two ardent lifelong Democrats. They had obviously purchased a mailing list from one of the Jewish philanthropic organizations we support! We have always made it a practice to make slight alterations in the way we identify ourselves to charitable organizations. For some, it is "Rabbi and Mrs," for others "Dr. and Mrs.," and for still others, Annie uses her maiden name. From the mere fact that this pamphlet was addressed to Annie using her maiden name, we could tell precisely which group had sold their mailing list.
Shame on them!
So while "Pushmi" can claim that their sole concern is in letting us know "how much better for Israel" Senator McCain is, "Pullyu" can deny that we have been targeted in any way, shape or form.
According to the most recent polls, Senator Obama can already count on the votes of 6 out of 10 Jewish voters. Let it be our prayer that such "Pushmi-Pullyu" tactics will backfire and that this number will go ever higher. I know that Annie and I refuse to be either pushed or pulled. We know where we stand and precisely who most closely reflects our political values and beliefs.
One of the things I always admired about Hugh Lofting as a young reader -- and even more so now that I am "almost an adult" -- was that he never underestimated the intelligence of his reading audience. He never "wrote down" to them.
This is precisely the sin of the new Republican "Pushmi-Pullyu" -- it is treating its Jewish "audience" as if it were made up of a bunch of gullible children, willing to believe everything it hears and anything it sees.
Its enough to make Hugh Lofting turn over in his grave.
©2008 Kurt F. Stone
I was amazed to learn that "Pushmi-Pullyu" is the 200th article to appear on "Beating the Bushes." As the old expression goes, "Time flies when you're having fun!"
Also, for all our Jewish readers, please accept our best wishes for a shana tovah u'mtukah . . . A "good and sweet New Year."
See you all in 5769!
Kurt F. Stone