(Editor's Note: Upon learning that today happens to be the subject's birthday, Mr. Small thought it might be appropriate to once again share the following newspaper column that he originally wrote back in 1997.)

He is many things to many people, a figure for all seasons. Dadaist, wizard, entertainer, revolutionary, ecologist - the definitive pre-post-modern futurist. One part superhero, one part scheming criminal genius. Cultured yet unpretentious, he is at once the Ultimate Everyman and the embodiment of a degree of royalty to which such notable half-wits as Bonnie Prince Charlie can only aspire in vain.

In a world of such varied and sundry role model candidates, he was the one to whom we all seemed to turn - the only guy any of us knew of who probably could lick all of our fathers, not that it would have ever come to that. Every kid on the block wanted to be like him. After our fathers, he was our Number One Guy, our hero, our leader. From time to time, he was even - speaking strictly in the secular sense, of course - our savior.

Three cheers for that Oscar-winning wabbit, Bugs Bunny.

Funny thing about the guys in my neighborhood. Nobody ever thought for one minute of wanting to trade places with Elmer or Sam, even though they had the guns. And certainly nobody ever wanted to be like poor ol’ Wile E., even if we could have made some of that Acme hardware work correctly.

But everybody wanted to be like Bugs. Or, if not Bugs, then maybe his partner in the cartoon pantheon: the Road Runner. They have a lot in common, these two. Both are indefeatable. Both are noble, in stature if not by birth. And both are perfectly willing to say (with signs, in the Road Runner’s case) and do the sort of things that the rest of us could wish we could do. The customs of our society would never allow for such behavior; it simply was not done. 

Dante’s Inferno was a cotton-pickin’ walk in the park compared to the Wrath of Bugs. The Fudds and the Coyotes of our world - some call it “the real world,” but sometimes I’m not so sure - get off far too easy by comparison. Yosemite Sam’s comeuppance is swift, sure and satisfying; Roger Dale Stafford’s was long, drawn-out and ultimately anticlimatic. Life just isn’t fair sometimes.

Everything some people learned, they learned in kindergarten. Everything I learned - the important things, at any rate - I learned from Bugs.

For instance:

• Absurd and misplaced drama can, if utilized properly, extricate you from any situation. Pretend to be an Irish cop, and your adversaries will throw themselves into the nearest oven. Strike up a song and dance, and the masses will surely follow. And even if they do not, their confusion is bound to make the foolish sides of their natures shine through for all the world to see.

• Never be afraid to feign ignorance. Most people feel genuinely threatened by any display of knowledge, so just go with the flow and pretend you are being enlightened by a complete buffoon. We are all surrounded by coyotes who consider themselves suprageniuses, but that’s okay - they’re bound to be done in by their own devices eventually. 

If you have any doubt of this, just remember Richard Nixon…

• Pay close attention to your road map anytime you’re driving through Albuquerque. This, I should think, is rather self-explanatory…

• Perception is two-fold. The rabbit that goes down one hole does not always look the same as the one that comes up behind you; what you expect will most likely blind you to the truth. 

“You know, I think that was that scwewy rabbit…” 

Yeah, you’re right. But what took you so long to notice?

Bugs is something of a 20th century Hermes - a figure whose nature is subject to multiple if not infinite interpretations. 

Paradoxical, and yet blatantly obvious, he is the personification of both the rebel and the patriot. An American cut from the same mold as Thoreau, Whitman or Marx (Groucho, you goof, not Karl): unconventional, and yet firmly grounded in everyday life and possessing of uncommonly common sense.

Bugs lives eternally in the moment, thus enabling him to react to any situation with the utmost spontaneity. Like the old Taoist wanderers he laughs loudly when he wants to, and his jokes - which are often meant to be, if not necessarily profane, then at the very least inappropriate - are often spiritually profound.

Bugs, of course, is often both teacher and student, and the lessons he receives are just as important as those he administers. Never turn your back on a charging bull; never travel with a greedy duck; never let your dress hike itself up over your cottontail while you’re trying to distract Elmer Fudd. 

You may well laugh, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But bear in mind while you do that his ability to learn while he teaches is further evidence of Bugs’ superior wisdom. The greatest fool of all is the wise man who feels he has nothing more to learn.

Ultimately, what makes Bugs such a valuable teacher is the fact that he concerns himself not so much with the probable as with the possible. Given the possiblities, he pauses just long enough to consider those which may have the maximum effect, and then uses them as a blueprint for action. 

This floppy-eared, cotton-tailed champion battles his way into the realm of not just the absurd but of the redeemed, wielding his wit like Ben Kenobi’s lightsaber. His humor saves us from the oppressive weight of a world of labels, where choices and opportunities are prescribed not so much by need as by convention. 

Because of him, we can see more clearly the path to victory over those who would oppress us. 

Through him, we are made free.

(Copyright © 1997, 2022 by John A. Small)