John Schroyer writes the following about MoveOn’s protest of Congressman Doug Lamborn for saying “tar baby:” ”Let’s throw him in the briar patch!’ one man yelled, to the amusement of the crowd.”
Initially I was struck by the oddity of Lamborn’s critics invoking the same African folklore for which they were lambasting Lamborn.
But, returning to Joel Chandler Harris’s version of the stories which he picked up from the African oral tradition, it struck me that throwing Lamborn in the briar patch is precisely the right move.
Let us recall that, in the tar baby story, the fox captures the rabbit in the sticky tar-baby trap. The story ends on an ambiguous note; the audience is left wondering whether the fox eats the rabbit.
But a bit latter on we learn that the rabbit outsmarts the fox, true to the trickster form of the rabbit (often a spider in Africa). The rabbit begs the fox not to throw him in the briar patch. But in fact that’s precisely where the rabbit wants to end up! When, wrongly thinking the action will greatly harm the rabbit, the fox throws him in, the rabbit runs free.
So throw Lamborn in the briar patch! That is after all the only just conclusion to this sad saga.
More on the African Roots of the Tar Baby Motif
MoveOn Smears Lamborn for Invoking African Tar Baby Folklore