A comment from Usman on my previous post raises an interesting question. He wonders if US convicts sent to Iraq will be able to return to the US, or if I'm proposing something like the system of "transportation" the British applied to Australia. As a Yank, I'm forced to note that Australia might never have been populated with Brits and Irish were it not for the American Revolution, which made it inconvenient to dump more UK criminals here. We were, after all, the shorter commute. (Though the Irish kept on coming even after, and we're the better for it.)
Racial and ethnic jokes aren't cool anymore. But we can still do national jokes, right? Usman's comment makes me think of my favorite Down Under joke (which most of you probably know):
A New Zealander is applying to emigrate to Australia. He fills out a long form, and then is interviewed by an immigration officer, who poses questions about his work history, his health profile, and his political affiliations. Finally, the officer asks, "Do you have a criminal record?"
"What?" the New Zealander asks, quite shocked, "do you still need one?"
Okay, you Commonwealth types have all heard that. But here's a Czechoslovakian joke from before the fall of the Soviet Empire:
Czechoslovakia announces it is forming a Ministry of the Navy. With all the military tension of the time, this drives the Kremlin crazy--what can this portend?
The next day, the Soviet Ambassador presents himself at the Czech Department of State. In the Secretary's office, he furiously demands, "Are you crazy? What are you trying to do with this annoucement of a Ministry of the Navy? Czechoslovakia is a landlocked country! You have no coastline, no ports--you don't even have any large lakes! Why would you need a Ministry of the Navy?"
"Well," the Czech Secretary of State replies, "you guys have a Ministry of Culture..."
And here is a whispered joke from Saudi Arabia in late 2001, right in the shadow of 9/11:
It is the year 2050. A father is taking his five-year-old son on a tour of the monument where the World Trade Center used to stand.
"What happened here, Daddy?" the child asks.
"Well, Johnny,"the father says, "an Arab extremist faction of terrorists used passenger aircraft as high-impact projectiles to undermine the structural integrity of major elements that were once erected at this site, resulting in massive destruction and loss of life."
"Yeah, I get all that," the child says. "But what the heck is an 'Arab'?"
I could go on. But I won't.