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Wars give lesson in geography

March 29, 1999

I don't like to brag, but I've figured out modern war. And as usual, it's all the fault of our public school teachers.

Remember a couple of decades ago when the great Geography Angst swept the nation? School kids couldn't even find Iowa on a map? Not even Iowa school kids. We wrung our hands in despair as test after test showed that school children routinely thought Qatar was the thing that made Bruce Springsteen famous.

So obviously the government stepped in with a typical government solution: Improve American's sense of geography by going to war against obscure nations. Studies show that 92 percent of America has never heard of Eastalcostan? Send in the cruise missiles. We did it in Latin America, we did it in the Caribbean, we did it in the Levant and we would have done it in Africa if those slacker geologists from Texaco could have found a couple of seams of shale oil.

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And now it's the Serbs. Obviously somewhere in America there was a geography test and under "Albanian" some kid wrote "guys with white hair and pink eyes."

And Macedonians? The last time we heard from them weren't they roasting a fatted calf and having a volleyball game out in the back yard of the Tower of Babel?

They say we can't find the Balkans on a map? Well it's no wonder. I got a recent U.N. map and instead of names the countries in that region just had blanks with "TBA" next to them. One of the nations, I swear, had "Bosnia And Herzegovina." Well, which is it? Is that like "The United States And Louisiana?"

No lie: One of our editors was on the Serbian Web site Wednesday - oh yes, they have one (www.serb-info.com). It's a great compilation of anti-American propaganda in broken English telling how "Tchee Yoonited Staves hass alfays been see prejudices again see Blacks, see Eendians and see Polar Bears..."

Heaven knows what they mean. But suddenly, about the time the first NATO bombs were coming down, the site went zoink, "404 Error: Host Not Found." Woohoo. Score one for the good guys.

For the life of me though, I can't figure out who to support. Say what you will about Tito, at least he held people together. Held them together with leg irons maybe, but together nonetheless.

Even the people who live there can't figure out which side they're on. As it was explained to me once, that's because every north/south, east/west camel trail in the ancient world used to intersect a few klicks south of Belgrade. It was the Breezewood of antiquity. So you had lots of different races of people who ended up in one spot, each wanting to run things the way it was done back in the homeland.

And they still do, not to mention the fact that Mother Russia still wants a say. They've been rattling their atoms over there saying that if NATO doesn't stop it, Russia will step in and - step in and - and what, throw some unpaid-for cabbage leaves at us?

If I were President Clinton I would say "Look, Boris. Cold war. Winners, us. Losers, you. Yalta is more theoretical in Moscow right now than a $20 pair of Jordache jeans, and you ought to count your lucky stars and sickles that while we're over in that part of the world with the Wild Weasels we don't just go ahead and finish the job we should have done at the end of dubya dubya two by parking a few Sidewinders in the Kremlin VIP lot."

Are you with me, Pat Buchanan? Huzzah!

But we'll never attack Russia and you want to know why?

Because every fifth-grade geography student already knows where it is.

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