Revisited: america.com

Happy Third of July! This is Independence Day, right?

I’m just teasing; I know that the Fourth of July is really on the Fourth of July. But apparently a lot of other Americans are actually confused on this subject. I read somewhere a survey that revealed a significant percentage of our populace could not name the date that this holiday is held on – even when asked straight out “when is the Fourth of July celebrated?”

I thought of this when hearing some guy on the radio the other day who had written a book about our nation’s earliest recorded history. He had worked as a youth at the Plymouth Rock memorial in Massachusetts, and recalled visitors to the site asking him why the rock had a plaque reading 1620 when in fact Christopher Columbus had delivered the Pilgrims to this country in 1492. Stupid tourists. Everybody with even the vaguest memory of grade-school history should remember that it was Leif Erikson who brought the Pilgrims to America, and that Columbus was actually the first president.

I know it’s all this “I read somewhere” and “I heard some guy” information that is distorting our national narrative, but the reality is that common knowledge is no longer necessary in the age of the Internet. I used to be known as the King of Trivia at my office because I could readily name who performed the song “Hang on Sloopy” (The McCoys) and what year Maury Wills set the major league stolen base record (1962). Now, nobody needs to “know” this stuff any more (as if they ever did). Now you just Google “Sloopy” and it’s the first thing to show up in the search, unless you mistype “Sloppy” and you end up with Sloppy Drunk Lisa Nova on YouTube drinking Pabst in a bathtub.

However, that’s no way to honor America on its birthday, which is what I had intended to do with this post. I thought I’d turn to Wikipedia to learn more about this entity we call the “United States”. It’s quite interesting to read about something you feel you already know so thoroughly. Among the things I learned:

  • Our government is a federal constitutional republic
  • Our “Gini” is 46.3 and our “HDI” is 0.950, or fifteenth in the world
  • We are either the third or fourth largest country by area in the world, depending on a territorial conflict between China and India
  • There’s a supervolcano under Yellowstone National Park
  • Our ecology in considered “megadiverse”
  • Not only were Texas and Hawaii independent republics before their incorporation into the union, but so was Vermont
  • The two non-states considered integral parts of the U.S. are Washington, D.C., and the Palmyra Atoll, an uninhabited territory in the Pacific Ocean
  • We lack formal diplomatic relations not with only well-known adversaries like Cuba, Iran and North Korea, but also Bhutan.
  • One-third of our population is obese, another third is overweight, our teen pregnancy rate is five times that of Europe, we have the most prisoners, we’re the biggest TV viewers in the world, and “being ordinary or average is generally seen as a positive attribute.”
  • Among the most popular websites with Americans is Wikipedia.

This isn’t really giving me the kind of picture I had in mind. Let me instead visit some sites whose names alone should give us a clearer idea of what it is that makes us so proud to be Americans.

Usa.com is a travel site for foreign nationals who are considering a visit to the U.S. However, in addition to the services you’d expect, like reservations, immigration information and how to find a job, there are seemingly unrelated options such as video editing, real estate training and free credit reports. I can understand the last one, since that seems to be a required link on every site you visit these days, but the need for these other services is pretty unlikely. Still, they make more sense than links for Christian singles and Russian women, which are also offered.

America.com describes itself as an “independent platform for all citizens looking to voice their opinions.” This had the scent of a thinly veiled political organ and yet I could locate no ranting diatribes among the few posts I read. With topics like the economy, family and health, this is apparently a good-faith effort to increase open communications among citizens. The only mildly disquieting features I could locate were a section on education (“from kindergarten to universits, this is the place to discuss about school”) with the most recent entry titled “Could I attend an high school?” Also, you have to wonder how American this place really is with an address like Grand-Rue 26, CH-1260, Nyon, which I’d guess is either in France or a distant, as-yet-unnamed galaxy.

Now if it’s crazed rants you’re looking for, you’ve got to check out georgewashington.com. This is run by a madman who believes he has somehow dragged his moldering cannot-tell-a-lie corpse out of its Mt. Vernon crypt to “lend my support to the cause of Liberty.” Here’s just a taste of his eighteenth-century perspective:

“The shadow governments and their banks own almost everything. (President Kennedy warned us, but he was silenced.) Their man-made world religion is taking shape. Controlling the major media corporations … they cleverly present both sides of the political spectrum. Their guiding evil spirits are now celebrating imminent victory of their New World Order. Jesus gave us a warning against accepting the ‘mark’ which will allow one to buy and sell. The USA is the Babylon of today. Prepare as you are able (more on that soon).” He signs off – eventually – as “your humble servant, George Washington (.com)”.

UnitedStatesOfAmerica.com apologizes in its introduction that it’s “still in prototype stage, so anything can happen” and, sure enough, clicking through the home page transports you to the seventh dimension. Not really. Basically, it appears to be a database of 23 million business listings they admit needs to be updated, which probably means about half of them are now vacant storefronts. When it’s finally up and fully running, you’ll be able to access info about arts and entertainment, various professional and personal services, and towing.

The rest of the sites I looked at were primarily re-directed searches that take you nowhere near where you intended to be.

FourthOfJuly.com lands you on GreetingCards.com, which reminds me that I’ve forgotten again to send out Independence Day cards to my relatives. You can also print-out greeting cards for a whole host of made-up holidays, including Remote Control Day (June 29), Barn Day (July 10), Cow Appreciation Day (July 14) and Monkey Day (July 21), and you can customize each of these for recipients who may happen to be gay or lesbian, angry or upset, religious, or international.

Cookout.com takes you to something called “Hover” and its hummingbird logo. IndependenceDay.com takes you to Fox Movies, which I guess was the studio for that awful film a few years back. Fireworks.com wasn’t available through the employee-access filters at my office, which makes perfect sense. UncleSam.com contained the cryptic message “See if you can find another spoon. With someone helping, this would go twice as fast.” I thought perhaps “spoon” was some new digital term I should know, but according to Google it’s only an indie band, a Thai restaurant, a collective that has ceased operation, and some kind of table utensil.

Just the kind of diversity you’d expect from America.

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2 Responses to “Revisited: america.com”

  1. Paul Dixon Says:

    Just some random bits of fluff drawn from my mental morass, somehow distantly related to your article:

    I once played Trivial Pursuit against 7 people simultaneously. They could all consult with each other, but I had only myself. I won.

    Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, until the past year or so, lived in my town of St. Petersburg, FL, so Wikipedia was based in the white-hot “action capital” of Florida, good old St. Pete.

    Early on, the state of Texas was spelled ‘Texias’. (Not a typo.)

    Speaking of Florida, I heard a new fact in a sermon yesterday: during the Revolutionary War, the territory known as West Florida was loyal to the Crown! So why in God’s name the Tories fled north to Canada when they could have retired to warmer climes is beyond me.

    Happy 3rd or 4th, or whenever it was. Actually, today is the 5th. Whatever.

  2. Paul Dixon Says:

    I’d like to correct my reference to Jimmy Wales before you do it for me. (Where’s the delete button?)

    Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, was a resident of St. Petersburg until relocating a year or so ago…etc. etc.

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