Sunday, October 24, 2004

America! America!

America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction is an uproariously funny read. Jon Stewart and the writers of the Daily Show are some of the best satirists around. The book looks like and is formatted like those grade school civics text books we all know and love so well. There is a foreword by Thomas Jefferson who loves the "mochachina" Halle Berry. There is a chapter on "Democracy Before America" with a helpful timeline that begins in prehistory with the first two-party system formed by the hunters and the gatherers. From there we move on to "The Founding of America" where we learn that the original color of the parchment the constitution was written on was "fireball fuchsia." Also included are the original reviews of the constitution with blurbs from the likes of Patrick Henry, "Reads more like a Con-shit-ution," and Alexander Hamilton, "The Constitution grabs you right from the Preamble and doesn't let go until the last Article...the must-ratify document of the summer!" From there we move on to chapters about the president, congress and the judicial branch, to campaigns and elections, the media, and the future of democracy. The final chapter, "The Rest of the World: International House of Horrors" takes us around the world where we learn that New Zealand in Australia's Canada and the famed Tiananmen Square protester was actually an OCD sufferer who only felt comfortable standing in front of large objects. The book has charts and pull-outs too, the most useful of which is the one on the "Shadow Government." It is a handy flow chart illustrating all levels of the shadow Government and who is involved right down to the Olsen Twins, the Gay Mafia, and Chupacabra. Along the way through the book are sidebar "Were You Aware" boxes with interesting facts such as "Due to an early typo, America very nearly became a 'Democrazy,'" and "Registering to vote automatically signs you up for the Lands' End catalog." At the end of each chapter are "Discussion Questions" like "What the hell does it mean to 'rock' a vote? Can a vote be R&B'd? Singer songwritered?" and "Separation of church and state is one of the fundamental principles of our government, yet court witnesses are required to swear on The Bible. Justify this." There are also "Classroom Activities" like "Take construction paper, trace your hand, and make a Turkey of Congress," and "Tell your students about the Liberty Bell and its significance as a symbol of our independence. Then give each student a hammer and have them smash a bell. Make sure they really wail on it--the more broken the bell the more the student loves freedom." Irreverence is the theme of this book, and if we can't laugh at ourselves then we really have hit rock bottom. Unfortunately the folks at Wal-mart don't see the rampant humor in the page of naked Supreme Court Justices. On the opposite page are their robes with paperdoll cutout tabs and the admonishment to "Restore their dignity by matching each justice with his or her respective robe." Wal-mart doesn't find the book appropriate for its customers because of this. If I were a Wal-Mart customer, which I'm not, I would be offended that Wal-Mart thinks I'm too stupid to decide for myself whether or not the book is something I want to buy. What is boils down to is a blatant attempt at censorship. Oh and we now all know for a fact that Sam Walton has not a single funny bone in his body. But I know, reader, that you have lots of funny bones. If you can make it through the first five pages of this book and not guffaw or at least chuckle, you take yourself and life waaaaaayyyy too seriously and should consider some intensive comedic therapy.