Thursday, February 07, 2008

A New National Motto

James Lileks was harrrumphing over the NYT Freakanomics Blog's contest: Create a new 6-word motto for the United States.

(Of course the USA already has a wonderful three-word motto, "E Pluribus Unum," that is, "Out of Many, One."

Mr. Lileks cuts loose:
It was no doubt tendered in good faith, but reading the suggestions is like licking a corroded battery. The latter-day sub-Menckens will always get off the sharpest lines, of course; you can’t draw a laugh with something Grandma might knit on a pillow, and drawing a laugh – or a mirthless snort of appreciation, which counts as a laugh nowadays – is the prime objective. Go on: read. It’s not just a lefty thing; the hard-core Ron Paulites are there as well, luxuriously immersed in simon-pure certainties.

Hundreds of snippets of derisive snark. You can picture the satisfied little grins on the authors’ faces; you can imagine the whole tableau – the computer (which most people in the world will never touch, let alone use, let alone own) the TV in the corner connected to a network that has channels catering to every taste, the iPod stocked with music hoovered up free of charge without consequence, the fridge stocked with food – the light comes on when you open the door, too, unless it’s burned out, and then you go to the store and get another one; they always have another one. The soft bed, the coffee machine, the well-fed pet, the vast panoply of free information and unfettered opinion flowing 24/7 from the internet. You can drink alcohol without being sentenced to death; you can be a girl alone in a room with a man without earning a public stoning; you can stand up in a room and argue for the candidate of your choice without being arrested; you stand in a society that allows for astonishing amounts of freedom, comfort and opportunity. But.

But. Someone somewhere is a practicing Baptist and someone somewhere else is eating a hamburger larger than you’d prefer, and other people are watching cars go around a track at high speed.

Actually, while lots of them are miserable bile-spew, I found some of them quite funny. Here are a few that stuck me:

“Land of the six word motto”

That’s MISTER America to you, pal!

Enlightenment scientific rationality meets puritan morality (This is the secret to American exceptionalism! -ED)

“Liberals hate it–must be good.”

Everyone hates US; immigration way up

USA - “That hot girl who ignores you”

“50 states, 2 parties, 1 dollar”

“We are the world’s rich uncle.”

“First to the moon and last”

“Home of Hollywood and New York”

“We don’t need no stinkin’ motto!”

“Politically: Representative democracy. Economically: Chaotic meritocracy.”

“If you live here, you’re home.”

Like Ancient Rome, with flush toilets.

“Luckily, our parents left your country”

When pigs fly, cows are jealous.

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