A doppelganger – baggy clothes, silly salute, mustache and all.

 Syrian President al-Assad

Charlie, Adolf and Bashar marching across the pages of history.  It is said we all have a double, doppelganger, somewhere in the world, looking just like us, but living completely different and separate lives someplace else.  Some people may have more than one; however, we are mostly so anonymous, living our obscure lives,  it is unlikely we would ever know about one “other” of us, much less more than one. But some people have such famous faces, gestures and other characteristics that finding the double is not such a challenge and can even become a game that the media plays with some regularity.  I have found one that has escaped the notice of other observers of world affairs.  Three men, one English, one German and one Syria who look so much alike they could play each other in the movie – or at least one of them might, the other two were to bent on killing to play.

Charlie Chaplin created a singular character in the history of film; no other character or image gained such attention or remained in the public consciousness as long.  His little tramp character was unique and strange; the tramp was little and funny – his clothes did not fit, his legs and arms did not work like normal arms and legs and then, he had that silly little mustache – such a unique little character.  But he was not alone on the planet then or now- there have been others.

Charlie Chaplin was noted for his slapstick comedy, his quirky tramp, his attraction to very young women and by the FBI for his political views – and for his mustache.   In film after film, the mustache and the tramp silently created uproarious laughter for millions of people – he was a comedian by profession, as an actor, writer and director.   Chaplin did made a couple of serious movies – they were funny, but the underlying theme was not intended to be humorous – the humor was only the vehicle for pointing out ugly realities.  All of his films in some way demonstrated sympathy with the poor and disadvantaged of the world; the heroes and villains were stereotypes, not real people, except one – the 1940 The Great Dictator.  The Great Dictator was one of his last films – it was a “talkie” and represents the end of the era of “The Tramp” and the silent films of Chaplin, it also had a real villain, Adolf Hitler.

The Great Dictator was a satire about Hitler and Jews – it was Chaplin’s attempt to put another kind of spotlight on Hitler, while people were trying their best to ignore him.  Later in his life, Chaplin said if he had known the extent of Hitler’s crimes, he would not have made a joke of him.  However, he did make the movie and in part because he thought it was the perfect role for him – Charlie Chaplin thought –  and so did others would made the comparison – they were look-a-likes, almost doppelgangers.  Funny, awkward little men with silly mustaches.  However, one was funny, the other was not; the third man in this tale of doppelgangers was not funny either and unlike Chaplin and Hitler, he is not dead, he lives in the Middle East.

In the Middle East, lots of things are happening, but for my purposes today – Syria is in the spotlight.  The United States and Russia are at odds again – this time over Syria.  The U.S. thinks the time has come for Syria’s president Assad to take a hike, as Libya’s Gaddafi is rumored to be in the process of doing – Russia thinks he should be given time and some support to straighten things out and institution some reforms. Most European countries are on America’s side and even the Chinese want Assad to change his ways.  Assad himself appears to only be thinking about suppressing opposition and maintaining his power; every day 20 or so people are reported to have been killed by the army in the process.

I have nothing new to add to the story – except – his image.  While reading Ashraq Alawsat I struck by a picture of Assad with his arm raised in a kind of salute.  “Wait a minute, I have seen that salute somewhere before – oh, I know that is just like Hitler.”  So I looked again and sure enough there was the mustache.

And now there are three Charlie, Adolf and Bashar – great dictators one and all.  Unfortunately for the victims, only Chaplin was funny.

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August 2011
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