Good Grief! What Charles Schulz Never Forgave

Somewhere in the slew of backed-up holiday newspaper reading I saw a mention of an upcoming book called The Forgiveness Factor: The Missing Ingredient for a Loving and Lasting Relationship by a guy named Fred Luskin, who runs the Stanford University Forgiveness Projects, a series of research projects that investigate how people forgive, why they forgive, and what difference it makes in their lives and the lives of others. Among their other projects, they have worked with Irish people whose loved ones were victims of IRA violence in the 70’s and 80’s.

I hadn’t even known this institute existed, or that forgiveness had become the subject of scholarly research. The book sounds worth a look when it appears  in January.

Coincidentally, I did an NPR/KERA radio commentary last week about people who don’t forgive but for one reason or another hold grudges for decades. Justice Clarence Thomas was one example, and another was the cartoonist Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts. I was one of the last journalists to interview Schulz a few months before his death in 2000.

It was a memorable experience that appeared doomed before it started. Getting Schulz on the phone was surprisingly easy, but right after saying hello he began telling me how busy he was and how much the pesky media bothered him, and anyway he’d been interviewed so many times, and this, and that. . . But it was coming up on the 50th anniversary of the Peanuts strip, so he supposed that he had to do something, so, well, okay, I could come and see him. But not the next week, because he was going to a national cartoonists’ convention in San Antonio.

San Antonio? Oh, I said, great, I’m in Dallas. Why don’t I just pop down that weekend and spend some time with you? Be great to see you with all your peers and younger cartoonists whom you’ve influenced, and….

Sounding just like one of his characters–Lucy, I think– Schulz cut me off.

“Are you kidding? That would ruin my entire weekend!”

I quickly discarded that notion and made plans to come out to One Snoopy Place in Santa Rosa, California. The hours with Schulz were fascinating, but it was easy to see where some of his characters got some of their, uh, quirky traits. If you ever read the strip much, you know that these innocent-looking tots were no strangers to envy, greed, and anger.

Anyway, the radio piece is here if you’d like to hear about Clarence Thomas, Richard Nixon, and something Charles Schulz never forgave.