MAXWELL:  They couldn’t put him back together

4/14/1999 – Printed in the EDITORIAL section of the St Petersburg Times Newspaper


Dr. Ruth Westheimer, moderator of the First Annual Humpty Dumpty Symposium, was in rare form as thousands of spectators streamed into the auditorium to hear the panelists debate one of the West’s enduring mysteries: Did Humpty Dumpty fall off that infamous “wall” or was the ellipsoidal entity pushed?

“Vell?” Dr. Ruth squealed.

Louis Farrakhan was beside himself: “Brother Humpty Dumpty, a proud member of the Fruit of Islam, was praying when Jews sneaked up on him and pushed him. You never know what those people will do.”

“Right on! Amen, brother!” the Right Rev. Al Sharpton shouted. “Yeah, whitey pushed the brother, just like they messed with Sister Tawana Brawley. Don’t let me start on Bernhard Goetz.”

Alan Dershowitz jumped to his feet: “Where’s the evidence? How dare you blame Jews. Tawana Brawley was a fraud, and Humpty was . . . ”

“A faithful spouse, a simple egg of a fellow,” Hillary Rodham Clinton said. “He’s the victim of a vast right-wing conspiracy.”

Jean-Paul Sartre: “Monsieur Dumpty was alone, condemned to freedom, eternal despair and nausea. His being was, well, nothingness. As far as his egghood, I don’t know. And jumping?”

“Da-da-da-da . . . .”

“Mr. Mel Tillis is having trouble expressing himself,” Dr. Ruth said.

“Why’s Herr Tillis slapping his thigh like that?” Hannah Arendt asked, trying to keep Karl Jaspers from groping her.

“If,” said Rob Wilson, a highly regarded literary theorist, “such a sublime cyborg (Humpty Dumpty) would insinuate the future as post-Fordist subject, his palpably masochistic locations as ecstatic agent of the sublime superstate need to be decoded as the now-all-but-unreadable DNA just as his strategy of carceral negotiation and regeneration through violence upon the racially heteroglossic implosion.”

“Say what?” a confounded Jesse Jackson yelped. “Y’all know that because the victim’s name suggests sexual promiscuity _ humping _ and deserting one’s wife _ dumping _ Brother Humpy has been left lumpy and funky by American society.”

“Oh, pa-leeze,” Susan Faludi said, one-upping right-wing Naomi Wolf. “Humpty Dumpty twisted our words and used them against us. He was part of the feminist backlash. If a woman pushed him off that wall, the little egg-headed chauvinist deserved it.”

Wolf muscled in: “As I wrote in The Beauty Myth, women deserve the choice to do whatever we want with our faces and bodies without being punished by an ideology that is using attitudes, economic pressure and even legal judgments regarding women’s appearance to undermine us psychologically and politically.”

“Girls! Girls! We’re our own worst enemy,” said the irascible Betty Friedan. “Go back and reread The Feminine Mystique, and, this time, get it right!”

The Rev. Billy Graham, holding a dog-earred Bible, turned to his fellow panelists and said: “We should pray for the soul of our oval brother.”

“I ain’t praying for no damned white egg,” gangster rapper the Notorious B.I.G. said. “He wasn’t nothing but a sucker. That’s why he’s all cracked up.”

“Ga-ga-ga-ga . . . .”

“Shut up, Mel. What’s a country music singer doing here anyway?” Liz Taylor asked.

On one side of the room, Phyllis Schlafly, Truman Capote, Margaret Thatcher, J. Edgar Hoover, Toni Morrison and James Carville were locked in fisticuffs.

Black feminist theorist bell hooks grabbed the microphone from the Rev. Graham and said: “By fictively re-creating Humpty Dumpty as Malcolm X and Mother Goose as Betty Shabazz, that damned little Spike Lee falsely constructs an image of black heterosexuality that only his mother could love.”

“Ga-ga-ga . . . .”

“Shut up, Mel, vill ya?” Dr. Ruth said. “Let’s get back to the core issue: Did Humpty Dumpty fall or did some babe . . . I mean, was he pushed?”

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush sashayed into the fray: “Because Mr. Dumpty was a loyal Republican, the state will give his children vouchers _ “opportunity scholarships’ _ to attend a rich private school.”

This is going to be a long night, Dr. Ruth thought. Erica Jong has been peculiarly quiet. And why is Cher crying over that photograph of Humpty Dumpty? And where is that Marilyn Manson?

Oy vey!