Do you feel anxious about the Civil War in Iraq? Does
your heart ache when yet another American is killed in
Anbar province? Does your stomach feel queasy when
more bodies turn up in Baghdad with gruesome signs of
torture? Well, worry no more. The good Dr. Bush has a
specially made salve at hand: Dr. Bush's Big Bottle of Testicular Extract - good for what ails you.
Sounds silly? Well, maybe not.
In 1842, German physiologist and physician, Wilhelm
Ludwig put forward the radical 'Ludwig's Theory,'
which explained, in purely chemical and physiological
terms, the simple function of the liver. Why was it
considered a 'radical' theory? Because most people at
that time still believed that the liver had a mystical
'life force,' which explained, to their latent
medieval minds, the very wonder that was urine. Though
it seems a trifling argument now, Ludwig's Theory,
medically and scientifically, was a forceful leap into
the modern age of rational medical science.
That said, some forty years later, in 1889, the
Testicular Extract Theory - posed by French-American
physician Charles Edouard Brown-Sequard - posited that
the injection of liquefied guinea pig testicle under
the skin of an aged man would invigorate his sexual
drive and prowess. Not surprisingly, the Testicular
Extract Theory was eventually discredited - though not
before who knows how many injections were dispensed to
willing, well, human 'guinea pigs.' (Which, as an
aside, does make me wonder: exactly what is in
So, what are we to conclude from these tales, you ask?
Well, we twenty-first century folk like to think that
the beliefs of those quaint, garlic garland wearing
folk - those folk who intently listened to Snake Oil
Salesmen selling their wares - have been left in the
past, erased by modern science and progressive
thinking. We like to think that scientific
breakthroughs, qualitative additions to our thinking
and understanding of the world, slowly and surely,
push our culture, and our species, collectively
But it doesn't always work out that way.
Consider: in this Bush-born, Twenty-First Century Age
of Unreason, it is precisely the progressive, rational
thinking - the very stuff of modern science - that has
been summarily erased. The signs are everywhere.
Two notable examples: despite overwhelming evidence to
the contrary, President Bush publicly rejects the
scientific evidence of Global Warming, opting for ever-morphing, mystical explanations of Earth's rising temperature. Similarly,
despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, President Bush publicly rejects the long-proven, scientific theory of Natural
Selection, opting for a blind belief in Intelligent Design (which, ironically enough, has him all-but-espousing a firm belief in the
un-science of Social Darwinism).
Stephen Colbert's new Age-of-Unreason word,
"truthiness" - the belief in something intuitively
without any reference to logic or evidence or
intellectual examination of the facts - would be
wildly hilarious, if it didn't accurately speak to
this disturbing return of the Snake Oil Salesmen and
their Supernatural Salves for What Ails Us.
Which brings me back to Dr. Bush's Big Bottle of
Our resident President Snake Oil Salesman, Dr. Bush,
tells us emphatically that he has the cure for our
ailments. He tells us emphatically that he has the
cure for our anxiety, for our heartache, and for our queasiness.
What is his unscientific, backward thinking, Snake Oil
solution to an illegal, immoral invasion and
occupation of Iraq gone terribly wrong? Why, just
invade Iraq again - but this time with more troops.
That this Snake Oil Salve - also sold by that equally
emphatic, equally unscientific Snake Oil Salesman, the
Good Dr. McCain - ignores logic, evidence,
intellectual examination, relevant facts, and the
truth is not the point. Dr. Bush's Testicular Extract
has "truthiness" to it - it feels good to "take the
fight to the enemy."
Of course, the problem with Snake Oil Salves is this:
the Doctor's 'cure' can kill you. Dr. Bush's
Testicular Extract feels a bit like pouring gasoline
on a raging fire. But then, maybe Dr. Bush has been
into his own stuff lately. Either way, by the time the
good Dr. Bush's Big Bottle of Testicular Extract makes
us ill, the good Dr. Bush will be well on his way to
the next town, selling more of his Testicular Extract
to the ignorant locals.
Meantime, to ward off future wars - given our present predilection for Snake Oil Salesmen - maybe we should start wearing garlands
Steven Laffoley (email@example.com) is an American writer living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He is the author of "Mr. Bush, Angus and Me: Notes of An American-Canadian in the Age of Unreason."