Pete Edler

The United States of Rumplestiltskin

Grimm’s fairy tale, Rumpelstilzchen, ends with the little protagonist in desperate anger stamping one leg deep into the ground, then yanking at the other, thus ripping himself in half at the crotch. Maybe that’s what’s happening to the United States – I’ll call it the Rumple Syndrome, or RS.

RS can be thought of as a classic manifestation of schizophrenia. For the United States of America it involves painful confrontation with a conditioned reflex that presumes the United States to be identical with America, and vice versa, for, undoubtedly, most Americans believe the United States and America to be one – in the same way a man and his guts are one. It follows that a threat to the man is a threat to his guts, and a threat to his guts is a threat to the man. Which is what makes the thought of separating the United States from America anathema to most Americans.

You may recall that Rumplestiltskin had a magical ability to spin straw into gold. And he had a somewhat paranoid fear of his name becoming known. At home deep in the forest he’d hop around a fire, chanting: "Ach wie gut, dass niemand weiß, dass ich Rumpelstilzchen heiß!" – ecstatic because no one knew his name was Rumplestiltskin. The United States too has a rumplestiltskinish ability to spin the soggy straw of its moral bankruptcy into shiny gold of virtue – accompanied by a paranoid fear of being called by its true name.

In the fairy tale, when the Queen tells the little freak

that his name is Rumplestiltskin, he becomes so

enraged that he stamps one leg into the ground and

tears himself asunder by the other. Similarly, when the United States of America is finally called by its true name, it may well attempt to tear itself apart. Yet we know that the – inevitable - demise of the United States will not be the end of America – to wit the Soviet Union, which died not with a bang but with a whimper, leaving Mother Russia very much alive.

Yes, America will most certainly survive the United States of America, but confronting and neutralizing a conditioned reflex that has evolved over more than two hundred years of joint history and propaganda will be more dangerous, more painful and much bloodier than separating Siamese twins who share the same digestive system.

Come to think of it, Rumplestiltskin tore himself apart not so much because his name was revealed but because when the Queen had found out and told him his name was Rumplestiltskin it meant he couldn’t collect the ransom they’d agreed on for his spinning straw into gold in her stead.

Similarly, when the United States of America finally is told its true name it will probably tear itself apart, not because it is angry at being called Death or Destruction or Global Enemy Number One or Rumsfeldsforeskin or whatever its true name will ultimately turn out to be but because hearing its true name spoken will signal that all bets are off, the jig is up, the Fat Lady sings and it’s time to pay the fucking piper. The pied piper!

©Peter Edler 2006


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