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I was in my favorite Yahoo! Chat room, when the following conversation took place:

cecilia: I am from Sweden
me: Oh! Where in Sweden are you from?
back_over_a_liberal_with_a_SUV: You've never been to Sweden

As uncanny as it may seem, a gentleman who had chosen the screenname "back_over_a_liberal_with_a_SUV" had made an ill-informed, incorrect conclusion.  I explained that I have been to Sweden, and that one of the best times of my life was a long hitchhike up the coast of Norway, from Mo-I-Rana to Narvik, followed by a railway trip South through Sweden.  After I so corrected my driving-advice-dispensing friend, and the conversation continued.

cecilia: Did you prefer Sweden or Norway?
me: I know it's a faux-pas, but Norway.  The fjords were the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.
back_over_a_liberal_with_a_SUV: America is beautiful
me: I'm not saying it isn't.  I love America.  But where are the fjords in Iowa?
back_over_a_liberal_with_a_SUV: Where's the Grand Canyon in Norway?

Okay, he had a point there.  And then we had a digression.   I told him that if he liked going to the Grand Canyon, he should thank the liberals, because it was Teddy Roosevelt who overcame the severe objections of the conservatives to create our National Park system, and he said that Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican and therefore not a liberal, and that I was therefore stupid and I pointed out that there used to be many liberal Republicans before they were hunted to near extinction by sportsmen and that Theodore Roosevelt eventually left/was forced out of the Republican party because of his liberalism and that calling him a Republican was a lot like calling Martin Luther a Catholic and he disputed my analogy and someone else said that Roosevelt was racist and I got mad because he wasn't and the conversation deteriorated from there.


back_over_a_liberal_with_a_SUV: All those [Scandinavian] countries are just socialist
me: Yes, but this may be hard for you to imagine, but many of them are still nice places to live.  Some of them have higher literacy rates and lower violent crime than we do.
back_over_a_liberal_with_a_SUV: If they are so great then why does everyone keep coming here and not there?

Well, I thought it was because the United States allows people to come here; that it is much easier to become a naturalized US citizen than it is to become a naturalized Swede.  And that a US citizen can't get a work-permit in Norway unless he has proof that he voted for Mondale in 1984, which pretty much eliminates anyone not from Minnesota.  And anyone who would leave Minnesota already has left.

But maybe my conservative friend was right.  Maybe Scandinavia is teeming with people who would be here now, but just don't know the way.  I mean if your country was so great "...then why does everyone keep coming here and not there?"  Certainly my chum "back_over_a_liberal_with_a_SUV" can't just be ignorant and thoughtless, right?  Hence this essay.

Travel Directions:

Okay, here is how to get to my country, step-by-step

Step 1: Face Africa
Step 2: Hold out your right hand.  You are now pointing towards America. 
Step 3: Go that way.  It will take a long time.
Step 4: When you see land, bear sharply left.
Step 5: When you hit land, get out of your boat or plane.  Congratulations!  You are now in America!

It is a little known fact that America is actually four different countries - Canada, The United States, Mexico, and South America.  When "back_over_a_liberal_with_a_SUV" refers to America, the beautiful place with the Grand Canyon and SUVs and Capitalism galore, he is referring to the United States.   So now you have to verify that you took your left early enough, that you are in the United States, not Canada.  Here is a simple test.  Go to a crowded place, and yell, "EVERYBODY FREEZE!"

...If people all slam to the floor, and police come, then you are in the United States!

...If people smile affably and say, "Not yet, but wait until the winter, and then everybody will freeze, eh?" then you are in Canada.  Go down the coast until you see the big black border line.

Where to go now that you are here:

Washington DC:  Skip it.  Our government is still pissed at you for trying to make us consult with you when we need to borrow your troops.  Sweden/Switzerland, Finland/France, Iceland/Ireland, Denmark/Dendrite, Norway/NATO you all sound alike.  If you MUST make the trip, be aware that mentioning that Walter Mondale is your cousin or that your country invented Bjork is NOT going to get you anywhere, so save it.

New York City: This is where you want to go.   It kicks ass.  It is the only place in the world where, at 3 AM, you can get sushi, Indian food, Italian food, or just go dancing.  Well, you can do that in Toronto, too, but as "back_over_a_liberal_with_a_SUV" would say, if Toronto were so great then why does everyone move here not there?  One fun thing to do is watch French tourists say, "Sacre bleu!  We have been acting all superior all this time, but this place just makes Paris look like so much merde!"   How much ass does New York kick?  Well, it is miles away from Disneyland, Disneyworld, The Mall of America, and Wall Drug, yet millions of tourists come ANYWAY.   This is where you want to be, dudes.

But if you can't hack New York City, start heading Upstate until you hit...

Chicago:  DC comics used to have a race of people called Bizarros, that looked like crystalline versions of Superman and Lois Lane.   They did things differently from Earth, and pretended to feel superior, yet they were always talking about how superior they were, to the point where you realized that they were quite the insecure race.  For example, this would be dinner conversation:

BIZARRO SUPERMAN:  We eat dinner now, having desert before we have salad
BIZARRO LOIS: Ha, ha.  Silly Earth people eat it other way around.

Or on line at the movies:

BIZARRO SUPERMAN: We now go see Western movie where BAD guy wins.
BIZARRO LOIS: Ha, ha.  Silly Earth people have good guy win.

Chicago is kind of like the Bizarro New York City.  They are always talking about how much better they are than New York, how New York and Chicago have such a rivalry, and how Chicago is winning that rivalry.  Please refrain from telling them that nobody in New York gives a fuck about Chicago, and how most of them couldn't find it on a map. 

NEW YORKER: Chicago... isn't that that place where you have to stop if you are flying to California on a cheap flight you got from Priceline?
OTHER NEW YORKER:  No, you're thinking of the city of Ohare.

It is worth a visit, actually.  Chicago is the world's #1 center for improvisational theater.  Second City (the place from whence we received most of the talented Saturday Night Live alumns, and revolutionized sketch comedy in general) was founded in Chicago.  Currently, people come from all over the world to train at the ImprovOlympic, the home of the most cutting-edge improvisational styles and structures.  (And, incredibly,  tickets are only $7!  Check it out!)  Still, I can't help picturing this conversation:

ACTOR:  We act now by making up as we go along
DEL CLOSE: Ha, ha.  Silly New York actors read from script.

Another great thing about Chicago is that the downtown area is very clean and relatively safe.  But still...

CHICAGOAN: Let us go downtown where it is clean and safe, and then get mugged in our home neighborhood.
MAYOR DALEY: Ha, ha.  Silly New Yorkers get mugged in their business district, and keep their HOMES clean.

If you like sports, Chicago is home to a world-class football team (not soccer, real football), basketball team, baseball team, hockey team, and the Cubs.   Speaking of Bizarros:

CUB FAN: We love Chicago Cubs so much... the more that they suck the more that we love them
DON BAYLOR: Ha, Ha.  Silly New Yorkers want their baseball teams to WIN games

(I am truly sorry for that last joke.  I love the Cubs.   Seriously.  I feel bad now)

Anyway, pass through Chicago and go to...

The Grand Canyon: Wonderful, isn't it?  You don't have one in Norway, do you?  No, you don't.  If you tried to fit one in Iceland, it would split the island in two and the whole thing would sink.  And Denmark - do you know how many Hans Christian Andersens would fit in the Grand Canyon?   Well... A LOT.  So Fuck your Nyvan and Tycho Brahe planetarium.  To hell with your whale-watching and Arctic Open.  Open your ass and insert your Muumimaailma and your Ukkopekka.  We've got bigger things than your Vigeland Park statues in our PANTS, and we've seen things deeper than the Gota Canal between yo' mamma's legs.  Go take a...

I'm sorry, I can't do this.  Scandinavia is a wonderful place to live, and it is a weak and foolish thing to try to put it down or minimize its attractions in an effort to bolster my own national pride.  It is beneath me.

It is also beneath America, because we are really quite a nice Superpower.  I love living here, and I am very proud of my country.  For example, we mentioned the Grand Canyon.  Do you know that it is a reasonably easy drive to the Grand Canyon from any point in the continental United States?  That is because we have one of the greatest National Highway systems of any country in the world.   Our national highways are well-maintained, marked clearly and logically, and generally to be envied.  Whenever I partake in the American pastime known as "road-tripping" I silently thank all the Liberals who fought for the creation of our National Highway Systems, over the objections of the private-sector Conservatives who thought the project was too expensive and would never work.  I love our highways.

When you reach the Grand Canyon, feel free to call me at the University and tell me how much you love it.  Long distance phone service is inexpensive and reliable here.  I was able to call my brother Mike in New Jersey, and my brother Al in California, to tell them that I'm updating my web page and that they should check it out.  It cost me less than ten cents a minute.  (Of course, it wasn't always that way.  I remember making long-distance calls on Thanksgiving with my family huddled around a stop-watch, because the rates were literally 3000 percent higher than they are now.  But the Liberals applied Teddy Roosevelt's anti-trust laws to the Bell monopoly, which allowed companies like MCI and Sprint to compete, hiring scads of people and driving down the costs of long-distance service.  Yes, the Conservatives told everyone it was Socialism, and that it was "anti-business" and that rates would go up, but the Liberals perservered, broke up the monopoly, and rates went down thanks to the competition.  Yay!)

I'm sorry that I emphasized cities in this little piece.  You should also take some time to check out MOST of the United States, which is rural.   You can go throughout my country and you will see farmland, and no matter how remote the farmhouse, you will be able to plug in your laptop, because they have electricity.  Really!  No kidding!  Everyone in the United States has access to electricity, and we have had it for long enough that we take it all for granted.   We shouldn't, of course.  We should thank the liberals who pushed through the Rural Electrification Act over the objections of the Conservatives, who complained that large government programs never work, and that if the private sector didn't find it profitable to run power-lines to remote areas, then they would just have to do without.   So I appreciate the Liberals, for giving me something else to brag about. 

And of course, if you are reading this page on the Internet, then you should send Al Gore a thank-you card.  He invented it, you know. 

My country still has some distance still to go.  In your home country, if you get sick, you get health care, regardless of your income.  Here, unfortunately, one out of six of us have no health insurance at all, (five out of six of the uninsured have a full-time wage earner in their family) and many more of us have really terrible health insurance.  Maybe some day a liberal will figure out how to solve that problem, and the conservatives won't stand in his or her way.  Anything is possible.

ANYway, my Scandinavian friend, thank you for reading this essay.   I congratulate you for coming from a wonderful place, and I hope that you congratulate me for coming from a wonderful place.  Visit us anytime, and we will be sure to do likewise.

Your pal,


P.S.  France sent us a really cool statue, and Britain sent us some incredible furniture.  We haven't received anything from you, yet.  I'm not hinting or anything, but I'm just worried that you might have sent something and it was lost in the mail.   Let us know.

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© Douglas J. Shaw,  2001


...actually, that stale joke was kind of a cheap shot that I couldn't resist.  No, Al Gore didn't invent the internet.  But not only didn't he claim that he did, it is a fact that he was the first government advocate of funding the research, and some of the main inventors of the internet say that he deserves a lot of the credit for the internet existing today.