This is a guest column by Timothy R. Holland
The Amazing Toomey and His Band of Carnies Cry “Hey, Rube!” in Moose Lodges Across the Land
by Timothy R. Holland
After having allegedly read David Carlyon’s biography of Dan Rice (Dan Rice: The Most Famous Man You’ve Never Heard Of), Pat Toomey decided that he too could run for the US Senate. “Shit,” he must have thought, “Rice ran for Senate, Congress, and even President of the United States. If he can do it, why can’t I?”
Rice is widely regarded as the first truly great American clown and certainly the first to be the star of the circus. Although he was born in New York City, he lived in Pennsylvania for more than two decades and held it very close to his heart. The similarities must have seemed uncanny to Toomey. It is also worth noting that Dan Rice is perhaps best known as the political cartoonist Thomas Nast’s model for Uncle Sam. Rice was a clown who was very active in politics, but he was also an esteemed animal trainer. Like Toomey, he specialized in pigs and mules. Not entirely worth going unsaid, he also presented to the world the first and last tightrope walking elephant. Dan Rice was big.
In his biography, Carlyon writes of the politics of conflict in circus life:
Mockery, at which Rice excelled, would provoke more anger. After “a Red Headed theife” of a constable gave him trouble, Rice re-enacted the squabble in the ring. He could boast that people became incensed against the constable as a result, but that man and his friends would be angry themselves. People were cheated as well. A skilled ticket seller could shortchange, unnoticed. Like birds in the wake of a boat, rigged games of chance abounded. Then there were pickpockets, who popped up wherever crowds gathered. A Baltimore paper told of one at a church, and a Philadelphia paper reported a jolly tale of a policeman, stationed at the theater to watch out for the light-fingered gentry, who had his own pocket picked. Pickpockets were a major problem for circuses. Because some shows harbored the thieves for a share of the booty, all were blamed.
Wherever fault lay, the “Hey Rube” exploded regularly. That is circus slang memorializing the good old days of violence. When a circus worker was attacked, he yelled “Hey, Rube!” and the troupe rushed to join the fight. Biting, gouging, kicking–no holds were barred, for who could have barred them in the melee? Rice called it “a terrible cry, [meaning] as no other expression in the language does, that a fierce deadly fight is on, that men who are far away from home must band together in a struggle that means life or death to them.” The rallying cry of “Hey, Rube”–later transformed into a noun–seems likely to have been a challenge flung at a local Reuben, but circus stories say otherwise. Glenroy provided the first attribution, recalling that in 1848, a member of Rice’s troupe was attacked at a New Orleans dance house. That man yelled to his friend, Reuben, and the whole company rushed to help.
It is appropriate that Rice was part of this first “Hey, Rube” tale. If he had not become famous for his clowning, circus history would have to include him for his fighting. He fought to protect his circus: he fought in contentious pride; sometimes, he fought just for fun.
At this point, the hook was in on Toomey. His fate was decided. It was time to set the book down on Rice, roll up the sleeves of his starched white shirt, and set to task. Start small, but think big. The traveling carnie becomes the clown king of the big top. The groundwork had already been laid. The Tea-Baggers had set up makeshift Three-Ring Circuses all across the country–it was just a matter of charting out the circle within the circle. He knew how people could be cheated, how to pick their pockets without them noticing, and he was also ready for the fight.
Today, Pat Toomey is the ringmaster of an angry traveling circus that doesn’t believe in fun. His last big top appearance was three days ago in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where he spoke to a teeth-grinding audience of 200 at the local Moose Lodge. “We are going to take America back,” Toomey proclaimed. With the fervor necessary to gain the attention and fellowship of an angry mob, he launched into meaningless inaccurate rhetoric in order to establish that there were two sides in an impending brawl–and that one of them must be crushed.
In terms of substance, the grandson of white immigrants noted that he was an advocate of legal immigration, but that it “must be controlled.” He did not choose to elaborate in Doylestown earlier this week on the system of controls he believes in and supports. On Toomey’s own Official Campaign Website, he writes: “The second principle is securing our border. It is crucial to the country’s security that we know who is entering our country; as long as the border is not secure, we will not be able to achieve this goal. For years, politicians have discussed the importance of securing America’s border, but it’s amounted only to talk and not enough action.”
That it is possible for a potential U.S. Senator who is leading in the polls to be unaware that America has more than one border is too absurd to be capable of being believed, and so there is only the alternative. The counterclaim to this blatant racism and xenophobia would most likely be that it was an accidental semantic inaccuracy if anyone from the Toomey campaign were willing to respond to my questions. At best, we can hope that it was some kind of subconscious psychological oversight in creating the illusion that the opponents of immigration are racist by using the plural “borders” to instill comfort in the hearts and minds of those Southern and Mid-Western worry-heads that the evil Canadians would be forever held at the gates.
In May of 2004, Toomey voted “Yes” on reporting illegal aliens who receive hospital treatment. The unconscionable outcome fairly speaks for itself. Why deport the fuckers when we can kill them. It is a more drastic and all encompassing version of the hanger trick. You uphold the sanctity of life and the integrity of abortion laws and you have a better than fair shake at killing the evil young women who are willing to commit the sin of abortion.
The end result of this law is barbaric. The sick will go untreated and die or they will seek out untrained black-market doctors to perform procedures that could only safely be conducted by trained and certified medical professionals in sterile, safe environments. On the Statute of Liberty is a plaque upon which is inscribed: “Give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses longing to be free…” To what end, Mr. Toomey? So that we might create basement death camps for human beings with treatable and preventable conditions simply by waiving the card of greater fears?
Toomey said on Tuesday that the government under the Obama Administration is “the most liberal in the history of our country,” and that “they are making an attempt to turn America into a European welfare state.” His response: “I got news for them – France is probably a nice place to visit, but I don’t want to be France.”
I would ask Mr. Toomey if he wants to be Arizona, but I already know the answer: more than Arizona itself.
Toomey is bad for Pennsylvania and I doubt he has much skill at training pigs and mules to do anything other than spit and drool on their own hate and anger.
But if it’s a Hey Rube he wants, let the good times roll.
Sic Transit Gloria!