Elaine Rosenberg Miller

The Popeye Factor

American children of a certain age who grew up on strip, movie and television cartoons fondly remember Popeye the Sailor Man.

He mumbled to himself, ambled along just minding his own business. He had a serious squint and a corncob pipe. The one stumbling block to his peace of mind was Bluto the huge villain who bullied everyone he came in contact with, especially the local townspeople.

(Did Bluto represent unrestricted government? Popeye first appeared during the Great Depression in the early 1930’s as our response to the nation’s economic collapse was increased government intrusion into daily life. It was also a time that fascist governments rising around the globe began to publicly target minorities.)

Popeye (because he squinted) just wanted to be left alone.

But, in adventure after adventure, he was the object of injustice and misfortune. Sometimes, it seemed like all the world was against him, another thing with which children could identify.

We knew what was coming and we waited.

Just when it looked like Popeye had been defeated, he would reach for his can of spinach and open it, throw his head back and gobble it down.

Suddenly, Popeye became a vegetable-fueled superhero and pummel Bluto into submission.

It was revenge all right, his and ours.

Children (and many adults) understood

We learned that one must eventually stand up to a bully.

It wasn’t that the spinach was “magical”. It was that Popeye had finally had enough and responded.

It is the way that most Americans like to define themselves.

It is one of the reasons that Donald Trump is leading in the polls and drawing huge crowds wherever he goes.

The public is fed up.

There has never been a president or presidential candidate who has been so relentlessly attacked by the opposition.

From the day he announced his candidacy in 2015, he has been the target of spying, false allegations, use of government resources to destroy him.

President Obama directed wiretapping of his campaign offices. Hillary Clinton’s managers paid ten million dollars to create a fake Russian dossier. Fifty-one “intelligence experts” signed a letter, orchestrated by Anthony Blinken, now Secretary of State, calling the Hunter Biden laptop “disinformation”. Democratic led Congress passed two impeachments. His administration endured the Mueller Report, the January 6 Commission. He was subject to a sexual assault lawsuit, experienced a raid on his home, is presently facing New York State and federal charges.

Now, Trump is re-entering the arena as Americans, weary of inflation, fearful of foreign wars, rattled by the attacks on our history, institutions and government, anxiously wait.

When it comes, cue the spotlights, triumphal music.

Those mighty forearms will do their trademark windmill and send Bluto into the next frame.

Popeye has returned.

About the Author
Elaine Rosenberg Miller writes fiction and non-fiction. Her work has appeared in numerous print publications and online sites, domestically and abroad, including JUDISCHE RUNDSCHAU, THE BANGALORE REVIEW, THE FORWARD, THE HUFFINGTON POST and THE JEWISH PRESS. Her books,, FISHING IN THE INTERCOASTAL AND OTHER SHORT STORIES, THE CHINESE JEW. THE TRUST and PALMBEACHTOWN are available on Amazon and Kindle.