The American Way

“What’s this?” Grandpa looked at the scrawl of paper.

“It’s a letter to you,” said Marie.

“Oh, I see.” Grandpa held it at arm’s length and focused. “What’s that word?”

“Love. It says, ‘I love you’.”

“Aw, that’s sweet. Thank you. I love you too, sweetheart, but you spelled ‘love’ wrong. It has an ‘e’ on the end.”

Marie shrugged. “That’s what it says. It doesn’t matter about the spelling.”

“Spelling’s important. Sometimes spelling can change the world. You want to know how?”

Marie nodded enthusiastically. Grandpa’s stories were as good as the ones Daddy read to her, but twice as silly. She climbed up onto his lap and snuggled in.

“Well, this is all about our country, and how one tiny spelling mistake led to a whole heap of trouble, even today.”

****

Back yonder, so many years ago even your Grandma can’t remember it, this country was brand new. We used to be part of Great Britain, and part of France. Part of Spain too, some of it. Well, that wouldn’t do, no sir, not at all. Here we all were, Americans to the bone, every man, woman and child, but no country of our own. So we upped and said to the King of England, “We’re Americans, born and bred. No taxation without representation. Better dead than red. Where’s the beef?'” and such slogans. The King of England, he upped and said, “You will not drink Coca Cola, no sir, nor Doctor Pepper. You’re English and have to drink tea.” So we threw them out of the country, and declared our own country, the United States of America, and poured all the tea into the sea. (Of course, this was before Starbucks started selling Earl Grey)

So anyhow, the United States of America was formed, and it was a perfect land, flowing with milk and honey, on account of the beehives and the milking pails having been kicked over in all the ruckus of the War of Independence. But once we’d kicked Tommy Britisher out, well, we didn’t have enough people in the country, because it was a lot bigger in those days. Sometimes you could go weeks without so much as a howdedoo, there were so few people about. So it was the new government sent out an invite, to all the people the Kings of England and France and Spain and everywhere else had upset. “Are you tired of your king?” we said. “Is he making you poor? What about your masses, are they all huddled? Well, come on over to America, where you can breathe free.” Of course, while breathing was free, everything else was taxed, but at least they were represented.

Now some people came because they were poor, and some came because they were tired, and some came to visit Disneyland and just didn’t bother going back home again, and why should they? But some people came because they worshipped God one way, and their king wanted them to worship another. And so we had Presbyterians and Episcopalians and Yugoslavians; we had Quakers and Shakers and Fakirs. We had every flavour of every religion, all Americans but never realising it till they got to America.

Most of the strange ones, the ones that believed in weird, way-out stuff, they carried on travelling west, and settled in California, where they still live to this day. Others founded towns wherever they could. Some founded towns, losted them and then founded them again.

The new country threw out all the old lawyers, and things might have been better if they left it at that, but then they grew their own lawyers, American lawyers, but they had nothing to do. You see, when we threw out the British, they took all their laws with them. So we got all the American lawyers together and told them to write new laws, American laws, so everything would be fair and right in the country.

“Right,” said one. “We need to do such and such.”

“Right,” said another. “And we need to do such and such else.”

“You’re both right,” said a third, whose name was Bill, and so they wrote it all down, and called it The Bill of Rights.

One of those rights said, “You can call God by whatever name you want, and you can worship him however you want, and you can believe whatever you want, especially if you live in California.” So people did. Some people called God Yahweh, and some Jehovah, and some Allah, and some Elvis, and some Dollar. Some people put their hats on to pray, and some took them off. Some shouted so loud they shook the roof, and some so quiet you could hear a beetle pass wind. And that was fine and dandy and The American Way.

But then some people started to act all European. “Our way is the right way,” they said. “The Constitution says you have the right to worship, and as our way to worship is right, that means you have to worship our way.” Well, that was not The American Way at all. That was the British way, and what would be the point of throwing them out if we became British ourselves?

Now, there was a particular congregation in Washington DC, the heart of our great nation. “It is sinful to go around showing bare skin,” they said, and by that they meant any skin at all. The men, they all wore big hats and bushy beards and gloves. Even when they took a shower, they had clothes on underneath their clothes, so they didn’t risk showing any skin. They wanted Abraham Lincoln to be president instead of George Washington. Well, that was okay, as far as it went, we all want someone else to be President but then do you know what they did? They started making people cover up, even if they didn’t go to their church.

Well, can you imagine? That sort of thing might be all well and good in Nebraska, but it would never do in places like Texas or California. Having to stay all wrapped up, even in summer? No sir, we couldn’t have that. So the government got together and they said, “Right, if a man wants to roll up his sleeves to do a bit of honest hard work in the heat of the day, he should be able to do that without some preacher yelling at him.” So they wrote it down in an amendment, and put it in the Bill of Rights, right after where it says you can call God Elvis. It doesn’t matter what religion says, every man has got a right to roll up his sleeves. The trouble is, they asked a lawyer called James Madison to write it all up, and his spelling was really bad. They stood over him and said, “Write this down. Every man has a right to bare his arms.” Only he wrote, “Every man has a right to bear arms,” and ever since, we’ve had nothing but trouble.

****

“So you see, sweetheart, spelling is important. If it’s important with silly little words like ‘bare’, can you imagine how important it is with huge important worlds like ‘love’? So you just go put an ‘e’ on the end, and then we’ll stick it up on the icebox with the others.”

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About snodlander
Snodlander is the nom de plume of Bob Simms. He is an IT trainer, but it's not as glamourous as it sounds. When he's not enthralling classes with adventures through SQL Server, he writes, draws and drinks his own home-brew. Buy his novel on Amazon Kindle at The Young Demon Keeper, It's 74p, for crying out loud!

2 Responses to The American Way

  1. Team Oyeniyi says:

    Absolutely brilliant! Really made my day!

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