In the past few weeks, we’ve heard from Americans who are afraid of what’s happening in this country. People are mad (and confused) about healthcare reform. We’re concerned that the administration is leading us down the wrong path. With a government full of communists, illegal immigrants, Nazis, and Kenyans, perhaps our fear is justified.
Well, on the day of the Afghanistan presidential election, here is one more group whom we should fear: men with beards.
Yup, beards. As in, chin warmers, mustache buddies, and neck rugs.
Why should we fear facial hair? Personally, I believe that beards reflect poor judgment. It’s coarse, it gathers crumbs, and it rarely makes one more attractive. It also seems terribly uncomfortable: especially in the summer, I imagine it’s like wearing a fur hat around your face. (If Santa Claus lived in Miami, he wouldn’t need a beard.) So naturally, people who choose to have beards are either a) irrational, b) trying to hide something, or c) preparing for Christmastime.
My beard theory is grounded in strict empirical evidence. For example, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a world leader with a beard. Barack Obama doesn’t have one, Gordon Brown doesn’t have one, and Angela Merkel (hopefully) can’t grow one. I could think of only one significant bearded world leader, and that’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the crazy President of Iran. (See? Beard = bad judgment = psychotic dictator of Iran. The transitive properties of mathematics don’t lie.) If you think it’s a cultural thing, just check out the clean-shaven faces of other Muslim leaders: Zardari of Pakistan, Talabani of Iraq, and Mubarak of Egypt. And while Kim Jong Il proves that beardless men can be psychotic dictators too, it’s never a sure thing unless you have a beard (see below).
Are there exceptions to the rule? Of course. But at the very least, having a beard is just bad luck. The last U.S. president to have a beard took office over a century ago. Unsurprisingly, Benjamin Harrison (1881) is probably one of the most obscure presidents ever. Before him, James Garfield had been the most recent President with a beard. Out of 47 U.S. presidents, only five had beards, and both Lincoln and Garfield were shot and killed.
This is what makes the Afghanistan election so troubling. Two of the three top contenders in the race have beards. Incumbent President Hamid Karzai has overseen his corrupt regime with a full face beard. Abdullah Abdullah, a former Afghan foreign minister and eye doctor, has a rapidly graying beard and very few friends in Washington. The only beardless contender is longshot Ashraf Ghani, who has a Ph.D from Columbia, a resume that includes a stint at the World Bank, and a puff piece in the New York Times.
So, Afghanistan, what’s it going to be? Five more years of furry faces, or a pick that will shock the world?