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July 10, 2009
Popeye Shows the Way
Samuel Huntington? Montgomery Watt? Charles Emmanuel Dufourcq? Andrew Bostom? Are you looking for the most perspicacious source on historical Islam? Forget about ‘em. Turn to Max and Dave Fleischer, two Manhattan cartoonists from the 1930's and their monumental analysis of The Jihad:
Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves (1937)
Denied a place at the Disney table (it was reputed that Signor Disney cared little for followers of the Mosaic Persuasion), the Frères Fleischer started King Features Syndicate during the depression, featuring the intrepid mariner who would prove to be Mickey Mouse's chief rival for the next two decades. Popeye the Sailor Man was born to Midwesterner Elzie Segar (pronounced like the proverbial 5 cent CEE-gar) in the late 1920's. His entourage, brilliantly assembled to resemble the eccentricities that were the stuff of an American cultural stew that consisted of an anorexic girlfriend, a mooching, hamburger- munching sidekick and a lout who would take on the persona of every bully from Tojo to Hitler, whichever villain was at hand.
In 1937 (following the so-called "Arab Revolt" in Palestine of the previous year), the Fleischers chose the Middle East as Popeye's showdown with the forces of darkness). I'm not suggesting that events thousands of miles away from Manhattan had anything to do with the cartoon, but who knows?
Twelve years later, Avedis Derounian, writing as "John Roy Carlson" tried to awaken the world to the growing threat of militant Islam in his epochal Cairo to Damascus with a prophetic chapter entitled "Islam Uber Alles". Could Popeye have pre-dated all the academics with his battle in the desert against the Jihad?
The cartoon opens with Bluto as the classic Jihadist, Abu Hassan, at the head of the raziah (cf. Koran, Sura 8, verses 41-44 and the divvying up of loot), singing,
"Your wives and children and money, too
I'll steal them from you before I'm through.."
"When things get quiet I start a riot
When I go by..."
"Now make no error
I'm called the terror
Of every village and town."
And, indeed, Abu Hassan proceeds to steal everything in the town from Wimpy's hot dogs to a poor bystander's teeth. He then makes his fatal error by enslaving Olive Oyl. No "in-FYE-del "( that's what Abu Hassan calls Popeye) worth his salt could abide this - as Popeye demonstrates - by thoroughly thrashing him. In the process, he calls on his never-failing, turbocharged can of spinach, commanding it to miraculously open by invoking,
"Open, SEZ ME!"
The local villages are spared, their wealth returned, western feminism is back on track (with Olive Oyl's release), Wimpy is free to freeload and American values are triumphant. What else do we need to know about combating Jihadists?
Popeye was no practitioner of "Soft Power" and "Nuanced Approaches". He knew a thief and a bully when he saw one. Let's learn from his resolve and be "strong to the finich."