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  • Robert Farago

Joe Biden is Lucy Van Pelt

But so is Donald Trump

King Sisyphus (not shown) was a lousy host, what with killing his visitors and all. Zeus punished the tyrant by making him roll an immense boulder to the top of a mountain – only to have it roll back down just before he reached the summit. Wash, rinse repeat. For eternity.

To honor the King’s torture, we call an endlessly repeated endeavor a “Sisyphean task.” Farm work. Finding something worth watching on Netflix. Cleaning up after children. Writing this daily Substack.

It’s not exactly the same as Sisyphus’ sitch. We evoke his name to describe jobs we choose to do. The King had no option. He’d have much rather carried on enacting his version of The Guest Who Came to Dinner.

There’s a more interesting, more apt modern day analogy for getting stuck in a negative feedback loop: Charlie Brown’s attempt to kick a football.

Back in the day newspapers had an entire page dedicated to comics, called “the funny pages.” Charles M. Schultz’s comic strip Peanuts was the mack daddy. Wikipedia:

…with 17,897 strips published in all, arguably the longest story ever told by one human being, [Peanuts] is considered to be the grandfather of slice of life cartoons. At the time of Schulz's death in 2000, Peanuts ran in over 2,600 newspapers, with a readership of around 355 million in 75 countries, and was translated into 21 languages

Charlie Brown was the comic strip’s central character. He was good natured and kind-hearted. A bit wishy-washy. And insecure AF. Which made Charlie Brown easy pickings for Lucy Van Pelt, his assertive, opinionated and bossy gal-pal.

Sherman, set the way back machine for November 16, 1952…

After watching football on TV, Charles M. Schultz got what the Grinch calls a wonderful, awful idea: have Lucy hold a football for Charlie Brown to kick, extra-point style. At the last second…

The “pull the football away” shtick was born, based on a harmless joke (Lucy wanting to keep the football clean).

As the years rolled by, the routine took on a far different meaning: Charlie Brown as a sucker for Lucy’s empty promises. Charlie Brown never learns.

I’ve been on this earth for 15 presidential elections. I’m here to tell you America is Charlie Brown and every single presidential candidate is Lucy Van Pelt. Here’s Joe Biden’s campaign ad:

One America! Fresh start! Who wouldn’t want to kick that football? AAUGH!

Don’t get me wrong®. Donald Trump made – is making – his own set of empty indeed unfulfillable promises to get America running to his ball.

As did Barak “Hope and Change” Obama. As did every politician who’s ever run for President of the United States.

How do they get away with this shit? For the same reason Charlie Brown is fooled by Lucy time and time again: we’re a kind, good natured people who want to believe the best about our people.

Aided by the world’s slickest marketing mavens, politicians are really good at convincing voters they share foundational values. Yes, pols rip the shit out of their rivals, but that’s how you get voters to believe your candidate is the “good guy.”

Sad to say, there’s no hope for change in this eternal missed football dynamic, just as there was no hope for “poor” King Sisyphus.

If you feel compelled to be optimistic about the current presidential election season, check out what happened 27 years after Lucy first fooled Charlie Brown:

In a July/August 1979 story, when Charlie Brown checked himself into the hospital due to feeling ill, Lucy was so distraught she vowed that she would let Charlie Brown kick the football. When Charlie Brown was released, he kept her to that vow. Unfortunately, when Charlie Brown made his place kick, he missed the ball and hit her hand instead.

As Homer Simpson would say, d’oh!


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