Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

September 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

It is not widely known, but a scholar has recently discovered a diary kept by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, an English author who wrote under the pseudonym Lewis Caroll.  According to his diary, whose authenticity and provenance has been thoroughly established, Mr. Dodgson acquired a rare drug from an Indian holy man which enabled him to go into a trance and, while in that transitional state between wakefulness and sleep, to see the future at whatever time he chose, in 3D Technicolor and stereophonic sound.

He chose the Summer of 2010.  It turns out that, after observing the cultural and political activity in the United States, he was inspired to write “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, a book much beloved by both children and adults for more than a century.  We now know, after reading his diary, the identities of some of the people who served as models for some of the memorable characters in that classic work.

For example, we can now say with some confidence that the famous episode in his book which described a tea party conducted by the Mad Hatter was merely a pastiche of several gatherings of men and women observed by him to be engaged in what they claimed were “tea parties” protesting every significant feature of civil and political life in America during the preceding fifty years.  In Lewis Caroll’s book, the host of the tea party was originally named the “Mad Hater”, based on Glenn Beck.  Before publication, however, the name was changed to “Mad Hatter”, thought to be more appropriate for younger readers.  Other characters were also based on people Caroll watched during his drug-induced visit to the future.  The Queen of Hearts, whose reaction to every annoyance was “Off with his/her head”, was, of course, Sarah Palin, whose relentless verbal attacks on reporters, Democrats and everyone else who did not share her vision of “real Americans”, duly impressed the author.

The White Rabbit, who obsessively worried about whether he was late in satisfying his obligations to the story’s royalty, was actually a composite of several Republicans observed by Caroll to be concerned lest they be perceived as less than enthusiastic about the tea party’s slogans.  The one who seems to have been most influential in shaping the White Rabbit’s literary personality was John McCain, whose ability to conform to the tea party’s rigorous standards was especially noticeable.

The Cheshire Cat, who directed Alice to the tea party at the March Hare’s house, was based on the author’s observation of Phil Gramm, a longtime purveyor of bogus economic theory and other political/financial flimflams, most notably the notion, truly worthy of Caroll’s imaginary Wonderland, that taking money from the working class and transferring it to the rich would benefit the working class.  The Cheshire Cat’s ability to disappear when it suited him/her, leaving behind only a grin, was Caroll’s way of illustrating the peek-a-boo cunning of Gramm, who claims credit when it serves his purpose but, when confronted with some embarrassing result of his efforts, disappears behind his “aw shucks” East Texas Good Ole Boy persona, muttering that he does not control the gullible crowd that falls for his spiel.

It is somewhat satisfying to learn more about the inspiration for Lewis Caroll’s fine book.  That satisfaction is, however, dampened by the fact that those of us who are living with the destructive and hateful reality of the Tea Party, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Phil Gramm, cannot escape from it, as Alice did from Wonderland.

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