America at War (a Fairy Tale)

It's July 4th, which SOME people call Independence Day, but even more people call International Dude Day. (In honor you might want to watch THE BIG LEBOWSKI, although I have to admit that movie has never worked for me. Can someone explain why it's supposed to be so funny? Do I need to smoke pot to "get it"???)

The annual Nathan's Hot Dog eating contest is today, which prompted me to want to do a big column getting everyone's favorite competitive eating stories down. However, since traffic is light o'er the holiday, we'll wait until next week.

Meanwhile, 24 years today The Police's "I'll Be Watching You" became the Number 1 song. Has there ever been a song where the intended message (voyeur/stalker) got so changed to how audiences see it today? (Love song) Of the top of my head I can think of several, so maybe this should be a top ten list too.

Oh, and make sure you get over to Monkey Barn for the Daily T's. Today's is just hysterical.

From six years ago, we have a two part column on the history of American War. No one seems to think this is as funny as I do, which may be because they don't get very many of the jokes, or more likely I hold fondness in my heart for the column because of what was going in my my personal life at the time and what it took to write it.

If at all possible you need to have someone read it aloud to you. Heck: call me and I'll do it.

#67 America at War, a Fairy Tale (Part 1)

The following should be read aloud


All right, answer me this: how many wars has America been involved in? Ok, maybe that’s not fair, there are too many to list. But how about this: how many legal wars has America waged, where Congress actually did their duty and declared war? It’s happened five times. Quick, name them. Bet you can’t. But, not to worry, by the time you read this you’ll be a spring of knowledge, and able to go out and impress your neighbors, get that raise you’ve been asking for, and win the fair maiden’s hand. I tell you, there's no end to my goodness.

Our first conflict was the Revolution, which couldn’t properly be called a war because we weren’t a country to declare one. That’s what we were fighting for. It’s sort of a Catch-22. There were plenty of skirmishes leading up to this “conflict.” There was the Boston Massacre, where the British hockey team beat the Boston Bruins 8-0. Then there was the Boston Tea Party, where the Colonists took all the tea and threw it in the sea. This was the result of a misunderstanding. The Colonists were supposed to throw the British in the sea and drink the tea, but instead they did the opposite, which led to the waste of good tea, and some irate British sailors.

All of this bickering was over taxes. Now, people in Britain actually paid more in taxes than the Colonists did, but the Colonists were still mad that they were taxed without “representation” (of course, this is what we do to minors now, but enough of that). Britain didn’t mind the Colonists being represented, but the British Monarchy insisted the Colonists fly over to Britain using British Airways, and the Colonists had a deal with Delta (shameless plug). So they had to fight.

Britain employed the time-honored tactic of “Standing in a straight line and getting shot.” The Colonists countered this by engaging in a policy of “Shooting the idiots standing there in a straight line.” The war was long and fierce, with mass confusion on both sides. For instance, in the middle of the Battle of Bunker Hill, it was brought to the attention of everyone that they were actually fighting on Breed’s Hill, and Old Man Breed didn’t like this at all. So, the entire battle was delayed until they could move lock, stock, and cannon over to the right place. There were many snafus like that.

Luckily we had the valiant George “Who’s your daddy of the country” Washington and his band of merry men to save the day. Oh, wait: maybe that was Robin Hood. The real Washington and his soldiers hid out at Falley Vorge, a local flea-bag hotel, until they were able to trick the British into taking the wrong turn at hopscotch (the truth is bloodier, but this is a family column). Soon the almost-war was over and after paying the shipping and handling, the Colonists got their flag and we became…Italy. Then we realized we had the wrong flag. Soon after more shipping and handling we proudly became…The Cub Scouts. Ah, screw it; let’s move on.

We were relatively peaceful for awhile, except for Daniel Shays and a few other drunks. They found out that beer couldn't be sold on Sundays, and there was a new bottle bill, and so these AA dropouts tried to secede from the Union and start their own state—the state of intoxication. George Washington quickly put down the revolt, but peace was not fully restored until Washington said that people with Bitter-Beer face qualified for the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In the early 1800s, Thomas "Jeff" Jefferson fought with some Pirates from North Africa. Jefferson had a hard time convincing the American people to get behind him because A) Americans had been pirates themselves and B) most people hated the Dodgers, not the Pirates. Jefferson finally settled on a policy of "paying the Pirates not to hurt us" and luckily they never won the pennant.

Then in 1812 Britain decided they missed us, and they came a-raiding. You may remember that the Revolution was against these same British. Why would the Brits want to experience another butt-kicking, you may ask. Well, they didn't actually lose the last war, they just quit, and now they were back for more. Congress decided to honor the event by declaring our First Official War. British soldiers burned the Capitol, which produced mixed reactions among the American people. On one hand, no one liked to see their country invaded. On the other hand, they couldn't complain about the burning. As Abigail Jones said, when interviewed, "Anything that keeps Congress from taking our money is a good thing." The War of 1812 lasted two and half years (making the name of the war the most misleading thing ever until The Neverending Story), but finally ended in December, 1814. Not able to resist a parting shot, General Andrew "Old Hickory Dickory Dock" Jackson fought and defeated the British 2 weeks after the war ended at the Battle of New Orleans. Just for good measure he made the defeated Brits listen to Cajun Chefs say "I GawRoanTee!" over and over again, and the British promised to never invade us again.

And for the most part they kept to that. There was the exception of a boarder dispute between British Canada and Oregon, and of course the Beatles, but by-and-large they left us alone. This was a good thing, for a new menace loomed over the horizon. You guessed right; I'm talking about the Evil Empire Mexico.

James "The Incredible" Polk ran for president in 1844 and won a victory based largely on a platform of going to war with Mexico. The problem was that America had a tradition of going to war as the injured party defending themselves. In 1812 this was easy, as the war took place on American soil, but the Mexicans made it tough by refusing to invade (except for some illegal immigrants, but that's another story). Polk pondered long and hard for a solution, until it finally came to him in the night, delivered by George Washington's ghost. Of course, it wasn't really Washington come back from the grave, but rather Henry Clay playing a joke, but Polk didn't know that. Polk called a press conference to announce the War with Mexico. He looked out at the television camera, and wondered to himself "Why is there a television camera in 1845?" Ignoring this incongruity, Polk looked out at the American people and announced America's reason for mobilizing and going to war. "They're Mexicans!" he said, and this instantly got the crowd fired up. "By Gar, they are Mexicans", people said to each other, "and we've been letting them get away with it." So, America declared its Second Official War with Mexico.

The war went fairly well, as wars go, and pretty soon America won. Our prize was Texas. "We lose; we'll give you Texas." The Mexican diplomats said, trying hard not to snigger. It wasn't until later we realized we'd been duped, but by then Texas was part of the nation, and no one could figure out a good way to give it back.

Pretty soon it was 1860, and we needed to have another war. There were no good enemies around, so America decided to fight itself. Of course, this wasn't an official war; that would have only been the case if the South had won. And speaking of the South, you've got to love their P.R. department. The South, or Confederacy, as they liked to be called, was having a hard time selling the war to countries abroad. It's kind of hard to rally support around the theme of "Keep people enslaved!" So the South came up with the idea that A) this war was perpetrated by the North (perhaps you've heard the war called "The War of Northern Aggression") and B) the war wasn't really about slavery, but instead was about States' Rights. This is a really great term, because it can apply to anything. Don't like taxes? It's against States' Rights! Can't get around those pesky murder laws? It violates States' Rights! See how easy this is? You might want to give it a try next time you're caught with another woman. "Honey, I know you don't like me committing adultery, but it's my States' Rights!" See how far you get.

As you can imagine, the South's plan went over like a dead woodchuck. Also, the South didn't have a great army, which also helps in wars, or so I'm told. So, the North won the war and the whole thing was swept under the rug, as if it had never happened (just like that raspberry incident). With the country reunited, America was free to do what great countries do: build huge wealth on the backs of child labor. Yes friends, you may not buy Nikes because some twelve year old girl in Malaysia only got twenty-three cents an hour to make them, but believe me, most of your material possessions were made possible because in the late 19th Century, most American businesses came up with the innovative slogan of "Bring your child to work day, and make them put in 13 solid hours without bathroom breaks." And who says history's boring?

Here ends part 1. Join us again next time when we look at the 20th Century and ask the question, “What were these guys smoking?”

October 18, 2001

[up tomorrow: part 2]

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