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"My Empire for a Map!"

Circumventing the Globe


It has come to my attention that some Americans are concerned Iraq might bodily invade the United States unless all of Iraq’s women and children are killed. This seems about as likely as the Anaheim Angels winning the World Championship, but stranger things have happened. Upon enquiry about this and other concerns said citizens of our Great Nation have waxed fretsome o’er, I realize there is a common thread to these alarums (aside from bone stupidity): Americans don’t know their geography. I am not an expert on the subject, although able to locate most of the continents as long they’re clearly marked, but I may be able to help allay some of the fears which grip this nation as its armed forces hack their way through distant lands.

First, picture the Earth itself (that’s the large, heavy thing you’re standing on). Let’s say for the sake of argument that it’s spherical, or in other words the shape of a basketball. Not a football, which is a symmetrically tapered ovoid. Now let’s pretend that if you stand on one spot on the surface of this sphere (and let’s face it, standing in two spots requires a virtuoso), there will be a spot on the opposite side of the sphere which we can call the ‘far side of the Earth’ because it is on the far side of the Earth. Are you with me, people? Praise Jesus. So now we have in our tiny brains a mental picture of a plump object with a front and back and no corners- sort of a globe. All that is required now is to locate the land masses known as continents because they are shaped like continents (from the Latin ‘Ländernamen’, meaning ‘flabbergast’) and that protrude from the moist areas known as oceans. The continent directly beneath you if you’re in North America is called ‘North America’ primarily to distinguish it from Europe, which isn’t. South America is to the south of North America, or the west if there’s something wrong with your compass. Try moving farther away from the large electromagnet.

Now if you’re in North America, and the sun is setting (perhaps you’d better wait until this occurs, just to make absolutely sure we get this right… is it setting? Now!) the place where the sun touches the horizon is more or less West. The place it rises, which I won’t ask you to wait for although certainly you can if you want, is East. Have we got this firmly fixed in our minds? What really matters is West and East, in terms of politics of even date. So follow your finger –I did tell you to point in the direction of East, didn’t I?—and pretend your finger wiggles right across the Atlantic Ocean (which is the ocean to America’s East, or right-hand side). The first thing your finger will reach, assuming it’s not devoured by a perspicacious fish halfway across, is a bit of land called Europe. This is where cheese comes from, and also England, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, and Hans Blix. You can’t miss it. Europe is about a quarter of the way around the Earth from America. Not far enough, maybe, but it’s one hell of a swim.
Now if you were to go straight south from Europe, you would notice eventually a large land mass that some people call ‘Africa’, because the afro hairstyle originated there and ‘Africa’ sounds a little bit like ‘afro’.

Unfortunately for Americans, most people in Africa are black, have AIDS, or both. On top of that there are elephants and things wandering around there, and deserts, and a country called ‘Niger’, which sounds kind of rude. So we’ll forget all about Africa for the time being- just like the American government. This is geography for white people. Most black people already know where Africa is. What’s important is this: right where Europe and Africa don’t connect is the Mediterranean Sea, and if we follow that intrepid finger southeast (it has turned southeast by now, drawn by the rich mysteries of Africa but frightened, vulnerable) we discover a far less impressive sea called the ‘Red Sea’ on account of it’s blue. If the Mediterranean separates Africa from Europe, the Red Sea separates Africa from the ‘Middle East’ or ‘Near East’, so called because it’s not as far as some East, such as the Far East for example, but is somewhat in the middle of the areas considered to be easterly. If you’re in China, it’s actually to the west, which is why men start so many wars: nobody knows where they are, and they sure as hell aren’t going to ask for directions. Better to just kill everybody and then say, “We’re here!”

The Middle East is where the present troubles are centered, if we don’t consider the imminent nuclear attack by North Korea trouble, which apparently we don’t. The Middle East is below Russia, to the left of China, and above Africa. Got that? Maybe you should do a little sketch.

Iraq is a Middle Eastern country. It is located pretty much in the middle of the Middle East, which is easy to remember; Afghanistan, which you may recall we carpeted with exploding tax dollars recently, is not next to Iraq. But it is much closer than North America. The country between Iraq and Afghanistan is Iran, and boy are they sweating it right about now. Saudi Arabia, which is where the terrorists actually came from, is directly south of Iraq. This part of the world, just to put it in perspective, is about halfway around the sphere or globe from America, latitudinally speaking (ask your mother) although if you want to be completely safe you will move to the island of Rapa in the South Pacific, which is on the opposite side of the world from Iraq. The chances of Iraq invading our shores is extremely slim, partially because there are a dozen nations, an ocean, and 6,000 miles between Baghdad and Hackensack, NY; and partially because all the Iraqis will soon be either dead or too hungry to travel more than a few hundred feet before they swoon.

Iraq left in smoking ruins, we continue to follow our finger eastward, and now we cross Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the northernmost bit of India before arriving in Tibet, which was pummeled a long time ago, and is part of China, which keeps on happening for ages and ages. By now we’re so far around the world that we’re actually headed for California, which my Confederate readers may be interested to learn is a country to the West of the United States. Right after China is a peninsula of land in what I am very embarrassed to report is called the Yellow Sea, although it is in fact a similar shade to the Red Sea. This peninsula contains North and South Korea. North Korea is to the North, and it has missiles with which it can ostensibly reach North America via a secret route called the North Pole, or in other words while we’re facing East they sneak up on us from the Northwest, probably disguised as Santa Claus. After Korea you’re in Japan, and then there’s bugger all for 5,500 miles except water. This water is called the Pacific Ocean because it is in the Pacific.

So there we are, all the way around the globe with our finger a little battered by the trip but otherwise intact, having made three fascinating discoveries:

1. We are very, very far away from all the naughty countries we fear,

2. The Kurds are once again screwed, and

3. We still don’t know where Australia is.

BEN TRIPP is a screenwriter, cartoonist and political satirist. He can be reached at: credel@earthlink.net


Yesterday’s Features

Daniel Wolff
A Road Trip in Wartime

Chris Clarke
We Never Spit on Any Baby Killers

David Lindorff
Saddam, a Hero Made in Washington

Pierre Tristam
Icarus on Crack: American Hubris and Iraq

Jason Leopold
Richard Perle: the Enterprising Hawk