By now, you've all probably heard about America (The Book) by Jon Stewart and The Daily Show writers. It's No. 2 on Amazon.com right now, but we had no idea it was already being adopted as a civics textbook in our local schools. Well, we just happened to find the backpack of one Sophie Blaine outside Inlander HQ last week, and inside was a copy of the book and Ms. Blaine's insightful report. As part of our ongoing civic duty to inform the public, we are reprinting her report, in its entirety, here -- along with one of the pages from inside it.
Ps: Stop by to pick up your backpack any time, Sophie!
A.P. American History
America: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction is a fact-filled and informational text that every American should have on his or her bookshelf. I learned many things that I never knew before about not only American history, but also world history. For instance, did you know that Marco Polo discovered China by "repeatedly shouting his own first name, then waiting for China to respond with his last"? It's in this book!
Like last year's textbook, The United States: From Revolution to Revenge, America is full of colorful pie charts, "Were You Aware?" boxes and maps. (In fact, the book encourages you to make up your own borders and countries for the map of the Middle East.) Unlike last year's textbook, this one is a lot more interactive. I especially enjoyed the Presidency Game as well as matching the undressed Supreme Court Justices to their individual judicial robes. And although I am not yet old enough to vote, I found the supplemental section on this year's presidential election more than informative. There's even a helpful chart comparing Kerry to Bush on such points as military commendations (a Bronze Star, a Silver Star and two Purple Hearts, compared to the Dannely Air National Guard Base "No New Cavities" Award), words per sentence (Kerry: 61 to Bush: 3) and "viscous substance underpinning personal fortune" (ketchup, oil).
Here are some of the other things I learned from reading America: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction:
Things about Presidents
* In addition to being our first president, George Washington is also the all-time record holder for Most Places Slept. Also, he would be unelectable today because he had "bad teeth and syphilis."
* John Adams was a great forebear to a long line of notable Americans, including "son John Quincy (6th President), great-grandson Henry (historian), cousin Sam (brewer, patriot) and great-great-grandnephew Grizzly."
* Our most Kennedy-esque presidents are, from most to least: William Clinton, Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Franklin Pierce and Thomas Jefferson.
* One of the jobs of the Secretary of State is to learn the phrase "Please, Your Excellency, the president didn't mean that" in 125 different languages.
* Japan's national icon is Hello Kitty. Its Prime Minister is Hello Junichiro Koizumi.
* In Italy, you can order "pizza" but not "crazy bread."
The Judicial System
* Placing one hand on the Holy Bible and raising your other hand makes it physically impossible for you to lie!
* Supreme Court justices are descended from apes and they also fight off confrontations from lower court judges in order to maintain their supremacy, much like silverback gorillas.
* Republican Senator Strom Thurmond's "racist rhetoric so appalled the state of South Carolina," they re-elected him seven times.
* Senator Patty Murray is in the book (page 65 - the Rotisserie 108th Congress Fantasy Delegation League) but they spelled her name wrong.
The Presidency and the Media
* The media is quite important to politicians. According to America, if you are a politician who is seeking to establish credibility, you should go on NBC's Meet the Press with Tim Russert because "holding your own against Russert is a political rite of passage akin to the Masai teenage-warrior circumcision ritual and only slightly easier on your penis. But tread carefully: It's early Sunday morning, and he fact-checks."
* Brain scans have proved that pundit brains have small "reason" and "memory" centers, while having extra large sections for ego, superego and speech ("connected to rectum").
The Future of Democracy
* Global Warming means that in the future, there will be no fresh water. There will be what fluid you can glean from "the squeezing of wet things," "closed-car condensation window-lickings" and urine (both own and others').
* And finally, while democracy may still exist, don't bet on Social Security. In the future, retirees will no longer get a monthly check but rather a "coupon good for a free side salad at Denny's."
I guess I'm at two double-spaced pages already! To summarize, I can't think of a better book to prepare young minds for a lifetime of responsible citizenship than America: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction. The American people, it turns out, are a resilient lot. Over decades of civil unrest, westward expansion, military entanglements and economic uncertainty, we've survived -- mostly by our ability to laugh at unfunny situations and mock our leaders.
Publication date: 10/21/04