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Peace vs. Piece

Published in “HWFmag”

December 2007

This language called English that you, my British friends, have foisted upon the world is quite an odd beast indeed. If one isn’t a native speaker of English, perish the thought of learning how to speak, no less, write this language that seems to defy any structure that makes learning languages somewhat easier. Our language has its roots starting somewhere in the 5th century from which influences of Celts, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Latin, Vikings, Normans and a long list of others have had their impact. Of course, we can’t leave out the more recent impact from the Canadians, Australians, and Indians and of course the Irish, Scottish, and English.

Oh yes, then of course, there is the little matter of us Americans who have managed to alter spelling and pronunciation beyond all bounds of respectability. No doubt the American lexicographer, Noah Webster and his protégés added their touch of inspiration (or was it mischief) resulting in the old saying attributed by some to George Bernard Shaw that England and America are, “two nations separated by a common language.” Still, I refuse to let America take the blame for just how insufferably difficult this language is to learn thanks to its endless assortment of incomprehensible peculiarities.

The French regularly break their language’s rules but at least the overwhelming majority of their words follow some sort of structure. Think about it. How can a non-native student of English ever figure out how to spell the word “enough?” If the poor soul somehow makes it through enough, let them have a go at “though,” “thought” and “through” for an abject lesson in confusion and frustration. Then of course the word “union” should be pronounced “un-yun” and the word “onion” should be pronounced “on-yun” You get my drift. Next there is a seemingly endless compilation of words that are pronounced the same but spelled differently; take for example “two,” “to” and “too” or “bred” and “bread.”

However, the words “peace” and “piece” have special symbolism during this holiday season. Their relationship has quite a story to tell. We all speak of wanting world “peace.” But both of Britain and America have somewhat tainted histories of scouring the world to garner larger “piece” of the proverbial pie. The British Empire is a famous example of the spoils of imperialism designed to assure the wealthiest lifestyle possible for the conquerors’ rulers with little regard for the lives of the vanquished. Not to worry, the Spanish, Romans, Turks, Egyptians won’t be beatified anytime soon either.

The United States has been an “A” student of our British forefathers as we’ve been screwing over much of the rest of the world quite nicely ourselves since the end of WWII. Having emerged the world’s sole superpower towards the end of the 20th century, we have been traveling the world marauding for the largest “piece” of the global pie possible. Although the United States has over 50% of the planet’s armaments world “peace” remains more elusive than ever. America represents 5% of the world’s population yet we consume 25% of the world’s resources. Yet, Curious George refuses to sign the Kyoto Accord and we are waiting for China and India to reduce their carbon footprint before addressing our own. The question that comes to mind is “When is enough enough?” You knew that I had to eventually return to my “enough” example didn’t you? This “piece” fixation consumes America within our own borders as well. The U. S. health system spends a higher portion of its gross domestic product than any other country but ranks 37 according to the World Health Organization. Our schools are falling drastically behind the rest of the industrialized world. The U.S. dollar has been collapsing at a rate on par with the decline of Bush’s popularity. Even the infrastructure of our highways and bridges are in dangerous disrepair as we pour endless quantities of money bringing democracy to Iraq and all the other countries that have something that we want (I mean whose people we care about). As long as the “haves” keep us fighting amongst ourselves they keep on living the good life. Still it isn’t politically correct for the “have-nots” to be openly ridiculed or legislated against by the “haves” who control the American economy, government and media.

Well, there is one exception and that is gay Americans. Our wanting to be treated as equals just isn’t acceptable. Just ask America’s Christian fundamentalists who are the thought police that make up the backbone of the Republican Party. They’ll tell you that gays are immoral sodomites whose sole agenda is the breakdown of the American family. My wanting the same rights of marriage with my husband is selfish and will degrade the marriages of my heterosexual coworkers, friends, family and countrymen. It will probably cause me to grow hair on the palms of my hands too (no wait … that’s something else), never mind.

After all, gays are the root cause of the more than 50% divorce rate in this country. As American comedian Stephen Colbert said in a recent interview with TV journalist, Tim Russert, “I am against same-sex marriage. The only reason that I got married was to rub the noses of gay people into the ground because they couldn’t get married. If gays can marry, then my marriage has no meaning and there is no reason for me to remain married. Allowing same-sex marriages will destroy the institution of marriage.”

The odd part of all of this is that my wanting the same “piece” of the American pie (the one that grants my relationship the same 1,100 rights as well as the responsibilities that come along with our marriage as those so easily obtained by heterosexuals) won’t make anybody else’s “piece” any smaller. But somehow, my wanting “equal rights” is turned by those who hate me into my wanting “special rights.” As always, God is on their side after all and one can’t argue with God! Surprisingly, the Canadians, who granted my husband and me our wedding license followed by a wedding ceremony that our families and friends will not forget, get it. Many in Europe get it. Even South Africa, who abolished apartheid just a few years ago, gets it.

I find it ironic that the “land of the free and home of the brave” remains hell bent on making certain that gays continue to be unable to live in “peace” by keeping us from obtaining our own “piece.” So “‘peace’ on earth, goodwill to men” and all of that. That is … as long as you choose to fall in love with a member of the opposite sex! Happy holidays everybody. May your new year be filled with “peace”!

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© 2007 John R. Selig. All rights reserved.