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Oct 22, 2004 12:00 am
On the morning after the first presidential debate, a search engine's simple listing of the most searched phrases on the Internet illustrated our country's greatest strength – and it was pointed out to me by a close friend who happens to be a Republican.
Yes, I do have friends who are bona-fide, card-carrying Republicans, I just don't like to be seen in public with them very often. They're constantly embarrassing me with their selfish, misguided views and to be perfectly honest I guess I embarrass them too sometimes. We enjoy friendships based on detente. I don't darken the doors of their expensive, exclusive, White-and-Protestant-Only country clubs and they stay away from my tree-hugging, anti-war, pro-hemp product get-togethers. Besides, they look as silly in tie-dyes as I do in black tie.
Still, I enjoy the give-and-take with my conservative friends, even the way most arguments end with questions about my mental stability, my patriotism and occasionally even my manhood.
And it was during one such cheerfully combative conversation on the morning after the first presidential debate when my conservative friend brought this list to my attention. It's the only time a Republican has done something that helped me personally, by the way, since Nixon instituted wage and price controls back when I was a 15-year-old grocery store bag boy. Because my biggest expense in those days was the occasional Steppenwolf eight-track, Nixon's price freeze didn't really help me economically – but it did save me the trouble of having to stamp new prices on everything once a week, which left me with more free time to loaf in the warehouse and smoke stolen cigarettes.
But anyway, my conservative friend noted that one of the largest Internet search engines displays what Americans are searching for most frequently each day on the Net, ranking them one through five. He and I both figured this was a pretty good way to take the pulse of the electorate, particularly less than 12 hours after the first debate ended.
So we checked it out. And on the morning after the first presidential debate, what would you think Americans were reading about the most on the Internet? Iraq? Weapons of mass destruction? Economic policy? Terrorism?
Nope – it was unicycle jousting.
Followed by Halloween costumes, Christmas decorating, weather forecasts and Kobe Bryant. I'm not making this up – there was nothing vaguely political at all on the list.
At first glance, that may seem sort of discouraging. Here we are, weeks away from what we're constantly being told may well be the most important election of modern times, and Americans are soaking up all the information they can get about – unicycle jousting?
At first, this little piece of information might make one uneasy – very uneasy, like Bill O'Reilly at a NOW banquet. So much for an informed electorate, you might be thinking.
But I would ask you to think again. Maybe this insatiable quest for knowledge about something like unicycle jousting is the very thing that makes our country great.
We've endured a bloody terrorist attack, seen the economy stutter like Mel Tillis on a diet pill binge, listened to campaign rhetoric harsher than a cat's claws scraping down a rusty tin roof, and yet we remain interested in things like unicycle jousting above all else. If nothing else, it proves the terrorists still aren't winning. We're still living life American-style – wasting gas like there's no tomorrow, racking up credit card debts the size of Schwarzeneger's ego and concerning ourselves with things like the combined weight of the Olsen twins rather than terrorist threats and political promises.
It makes me proud to be an American.
It also makes me wish, sometimes, that we could do away with large scale elections like the presidential race in 2000 and California only last year, where the voters make their choice at the ballot box only to see the oil-rich fat-cats and Halliburton warlords who really run the country go ahead and put who they want in office anyway.
I think the answer is pretty simple – let's turn to unicycle jousting instead. One big grudge match, Democrat vs. Republican, winner-take-all. Forget the hanging chad – whoever is left with anything at all hanging at the end of the match will be allowed to move into the White House.
But only on a unicycle.