[With apologies to Alphonse Allais, Captain Cap, and Jonathan Swift]
Dr. Howard P. Walsh, Ph.D.
President and CEO, American Foundation for Common Sense (AFCS)
My beloved Americans,
Citizens of our Great American Nation are known for many accomplishments in all spheres of life. As the world’s first and most prestigious democracy, we are held to the highest of standards yet we invariably meet and exceed those standards. As the most beloved Nation in the world, our country is also the most advanced in areas such as social solidarity, healthcare, human rights, and geography.
This last point, geography, is the one I will emphasize today. Students of our public and private school systems repeatedly score higher than any other student on the planet in terms of a thorough knowledge of human, political, and physical geography. This is all well and good as it’s one of many opportunities for the world to see the grandeur of the United States of America. What I submit to you, however, is that the amount of time and money spent learning country names would be better spent elsewhere.
At the risk of shocking you, I wish to bring to your attention the fact that the world is a mess. Unlike our great country, too many places around the world have names which are difficult to remember. Worse, many places have very similar names, making it very confusing for even the most learned professor to remember which country, between Pakistan and Palestine, is among our Valued Allies. I have graduate degrees from several of the most prestigious schools of the land yet, for the life of me, I cannot remember which country does cuckoo clocks and chocolate. Is it Sweden or Swaziland? Your guess is as good as mine. And as we shift our attention from Iraq to Iran, how can we make sure that the public opinion isn’t mistaking our successes in Iraq for our future successes in Iran?
Through our missions around the world, we are constantly making the world a better place. Getting rid of unnecessary state structures, replacing deprecated governments with improved administrations, streamlining the Middle East and The Orient… Eventually, this process will make it possible for us to change old country names with new ones. But this process takes time and our children need those names to change now, so that they can move on to other projects.
What I propose today is a simple change which can have large effects on our society and on the world as a whole: change country names with numbers.
Who, among us, fails to appreciate the beauty of numbered streets and avenues in Manhattan? How could anyone not marvel at the simplicity of the Interstate numbering system which makes it so easy for everyone to drive all across our land? What I propose today is a simple extension of this principle to the map of the world.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that our country will remain the first country. I can already hear children in the streets of every country on the planet chant one of our favorite mantras: “U.S.A., #1.” With the Olympic Games fast approaching, I hope that we can move fast so that, as our athletes win every major competition over there, the cheers they hear can have a lasting effect on World Peace and Unity.
As a natural partner, Canada will be number 2. Now, I know it may seem like a great honor for such a small country but I feel that the Canadian president has been such a friendly ally of ours over the past few years that his country deserves a pat in the back. Perhaps more than anyone, the harmless country of Canada can understand the value of being “number two.”
I propose China to come in third place. The Chinese landmass is almost as big as ours and giving them number 3 will help our nation’s good folks remember that China is the Third World.
I will submit the full list of countries with numbers to the CIA so that they can update their World Factbook as soon as possible.
Numbering countries is but the first step in my simple plan. As a second step, regions and cities will be specified using legal numbering. For instance, what Canadians call the “Providence of Quebec” will be called 2.0 while Montreal will be called 2.0.1.
Country capitals will be designated as the first city in the first state of the country. London, for instance, will be called 4.1.1, Baghdad will be called 9.1.1, and Abidjan, the capital of Nigeria, will be called 56.1.1.
There is the matter of verbiage to use for these designations. To avoid mistakes, military personnel will standardize on using the word “point” for the decimal point. However, in accordance with our nation’s usage, both “point” and “dot” forms will be accepted so that “five-dot-two” is understood as meaning 5.2 (County Cork, in Ireland). Because of time constraints, I expect television reporters to skip the “point” or “dot” method in their work. In fact, I can just hear our nation’s top journalists bring the news to the American public that “the American military has just bombed seven-one out of the map.”
While I see major advantages of my numbering scheme for our children’s education, all occasions requiring the use of foreign designation will benefit from the change: game shows, news stories, wars, study abroad, and vacations. Though these seem like limited contexts, I can tell you that even if it were just a way to lift the heavy burden of media corporations and journalism schools around the country, the savings will be enough to finance a large number of radio and television stations.
News correspondents will use these designations to specify their location, saving time and confusion. Nobody would dispute that “Adam Johnson in twelve-one-one” is much more efficient a signoff than “Adam Johnson in Pyongyang.”
Expenditures on foreign language training will be cut down significantly as travelers will find their way around those places overseas by simply looking at numbered locations instead of trying to read place names in exotic languages.
American companies doing business abroad will clearly benefit from my designations. For instance, Google China will be called “Google 3” and MTV Africa will be called “MTV 12.”
As I’m sure you’ll agree, my plan will benefit everyone equally. Business owners, journalists, travelers, and high school students. Even office workers will support my resolution as Excel spreadsheets will be much easier to sort and PowerPoint slides will be much clearer.
The final phase of my plan is for continents to be designated by letters. As they failed to embark in modernity, Africa will be given an F. As the head of the class, America clearly deserves an A+.
I trust that you will adopt my resolution promptly so that we can solve other problems facing the world, like the price of oil and the value of the dollar.