Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Straight Dope

Yep, stolen from the Straight Dope message board...check it out sometime. What I love about the following piece is that it perfectly exemplifies what's wrong with this country. Um, basically...a lot of things are. But instead of the government focusing its energy into fixing these problems (crumbling health care and social security systems, war in Iraq, regressive economy, and of course, Mexicans) it somehow tries to avoid even dealing with these problems by diverting the country's attention somewhere else. But anyway, read for yourself because I don't do it justice.

Fifty years later, does America need a stupider motto?

1956 was of course the worst year that the United States had ever faced. Wracked by turmoil and social upheaval, beset by enemies within and without, the nation thrashed about like a dying, constipated beast. Whole cities crumbled into ruin amid the chaos as American society teetered on the very brink of collapse. The horror of that time has made the name of Eisenhower synonymous with anarchy even to this day. My father would never talk about how he and his family survived those grim times.

Fortunately, in the very nick of time, legislators realized the true cause of the crisis: America's national motto wasn't stupid enough. Like all of the country's other woes, this disaster could ultimately be traced back to that most sinister of Americans, Thomas Jefferson. The same treacherous impulses that led him to betray his rightful King also inevitably prompted him to sabotage the fledgling nation by giving it the worst possible state motto: E pluribus unum. Not only was this an unforgivably pompous classical reference, its subversive message-- "out of many, one--" would result in a catastrophic tradition of escalating tolerance and unity that was doomed to tear the country apart in less than two hundred years.

With Jefferson's nefarious plan finally revealed, the government was faced with the challenge of selecting a stupider, less tolerant motto to more accurately embody the national character. A list was compiled of various candidates such as "no loitering," "if you're so smart why ain't you rich?" and "whites only." However, at last "In God we trust," a judiciously recycled version of the Confederate States of America's motto "God will vindicate," was chosen for its historical resonance, potential for divisiveness, and general inappropriateness. Legislators also remarked favorably on its weirdly bass-ackwards phrasing, "which calls to mind the speech of a comical Chinaman, or of some type of puppet from a science fiction serial of some kind." The motto proved its worth immediately, as its blandly pious presence on American currency spurred an unparalleled economic boom, resulting in an age of renewed prosperity that lasted until the Carter years.

Yet now, five decades later, threats to America are on the rise once more. There's the war on Christmas, of course; and also Iraq's unprovoked invasion of the United States, which continues to cost the lives of American soldiers. Iran and North Korea could launch a nuclear attack on American cities at any time, if indeed they haven't already, and Mexicans continue to occur. Is it once again time to safeguard ourselves with a new, even stupider motto? Perhaps "In God and Jesus we trust really; in fact their voices inside our heads we often hear," or "are you ready for some football?!""

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