POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

The Wheels on the Bus Go ‘Round and ‘Round

by David Trumbull -- November 25, 2011

On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda terrorist used airliners to attack the United States. On March 11, 2004, al-Qaeda-inspired terrorists set off a series of coordinated railway train bombings in Madrid, Spain. And, just before the busy Thanksgiving travel season this year, the Transportation Security Administration warned U.S. police departments of a credible threat of terrorists attacks on city buses. Yes, according to Fox News, intelligence garnered from Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan shows the al-Qaeda leader was considering using buses as weapons.

A decade ago al-Qaeda was – literally – flying high, and into some of the tallest buildings in America, symbols of American financial wealth. Now they are reduced to taking the bus. What next? Thumbing a ride? Actually, thumbing a ride sounds more like the “Occupy” movement, which wants everything, and now! – as long was somebody else pays for it.

Humor – the capacity to laugh at our problems and even at our foes – sets us ordinary Americans apart from those – far too many of them – who are so earnest about their grievances. Can you image al-Qaeda making jokes about the “Great Satan?” And as for the crowd down in Dewey Square – I have never before seen a political gathering so devoid of any sign of humor.

Beware of people who take their politics seriously. That’s what gave us international socialism (Soviet Commies) and national socialism (German Nazis). And both gave us the bloodiest century in the history of the human race.

Americans love political and topical humor. Many get their news from the Tonight Show monologue, Saturday Night Live, the Daily Show, and Colbert Report – perhaps more than get it from the “real” news. If that is true, then we are in good company. The ancient Athenians, often held up as an example of the most perfectly engaged citizens in a Democracy, got their current events and news from the bawdy comedies of Aristophanes.

Recently I was in Washington, D.C. and had the opportunity to see the Library of Congress exhibit Hope for America: Performers, Politics, and Pop Culture. The exhibit focuses on the careers of Bob Hope and other entertainers who chose to involve themselves in the political climate of their times. The funny men and women featured in the exhibit served party, cause, and country and, in the end made a difference in the political life of the nation.

So al-Qaeda is going to take the bus. Well, if Richard Reid, the unsuccessful “shoe bomber” of December 22, 2001 and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day 2009 “underwear bomber” – who succeeded only in setting fire to his pants – are typical, I guess we must conclude that al-Qaeda will be on the short bus, if you know what I mean.