by William A. Cook
Clowns befuddle a crowd. They appear a pretense of the normal but caricatured to evoke laughter, surprise, at times derision, but always in context where they absorb self-deprecation, become the butt of jokes, become the audiences’ self, a make believe self, receiving the jibes, jests and buffoonery never allowed when alone. Thus do they become vessels of deep seated self- ridicule, inhibited expression, personal inadequacy, a self-conscious parody of the normal. They are used images, commodities to be bought and sold for the purchaser’s benefit, set amidst their fellows as manikins to be pinched and probed, facsimiles of all, but receivers of ridicule to protect their brethren.
Such is the figure of Patrick Clawson, Director of Research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, as he appeared before his fellows, his scholarly brethren seated silently in respectful adulation at WINEP’s self-proclaimed international conference on near East policy. He appeared as all clowns appear from the side curtains, an Ichabod figure from Irving’s legend’s, lanky, thin, staccato stepping toward the podium, a believer in mystical gods, historical covenants, justifications of actions found encrypted in the yellow stained pages of ancient scrolls, called upon to deliver his sacred yet startling message to his colleagues.