By San Antonio Rose
Author’s note: See if you can figure out who I cast in some of these parts! I wrote this for an English project, so I had to rename some characters. This is modeled after the book Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, so you may need to read the book to figure out some of the references.
Some ten years after my return to England, my disgust with the Yahoos of my land finally got the better of me and I set out to sea once more. I bade farewell to my wife and children, whose presence I had at last come to tolerate, and took ship at Plymouth on the HMS Pinafore. The ship’s captain went only by the name of Q, and I could learn little about him. Nevertheless, we set sail on April 4, 1736, and had fair sailing west for a fortnight.
On the fifteenth day from England, our ship encountered a furious storm that lasted for three days. The ship was tossed about so that we were very nearly wrecked. I attempted to help on deck, but as there were too many men doing the same thing, I went below to calm the Houyhnhnms we had brought with us. Afterward, some of the men reported to me that a great swirling vortex of clouds had swallowed the ship as we made rough progress through the sea. One sailor confided to me that he suspected Captain Q of having called up the storm, but we could ascertain no proof of that. At any rate, we were blown very far from our original course. When at last the storm abated, no one among us had the least idea where we were. Most of the navigational equipment had been damaged beyond repair in the storm, as had a great deal of supplies. Captain Q decided that our only option was to sail due west until we struck land, to which the rest of us heartily agreed.
About a week after the storm, land was sighted straight ahead of us, and it did not appear to be merely an island. Late in the day, five of the crew members and I set out in the longboat to scout out the continent before us, as we did not know even our longitude or latitude. Unfortunately, the light was so far gone that we did not see a sandbar until we were upon it. The boat hit hard and sank, leaving the six of us stranded. Not knowing what creatures were in the water and being utterly exhausted from the hard voyage, we sat down on the highest point of the sandbar (which was only about a foot above the waves at high tide) and fell asleep.
The next thing I knew, it was mid-morning. Five strange Yahoos surrounded me, two (as I learned from their conversation) trying to find identification and three attempting to learn if I were alive or not. I yelled in terror, at which they left my things and ran off several paces in fear.
"Wot’s wrong wi’ ‘im?" one asked the others. He was short, with shoulder-length brown hair and a face that the inhabitants of that land term "cute." His accent was that of Manchester.
"Search me," replied another with equally long blond hair.
"At least we know he’s alive," sighed the tallest. This Yahoo, like the others, was strangely clad, and his dark brown hair was surmounted by something that looked like a hat knit from green wool. I could scarcely distinguish his words for his thick accent, the likes of which I had never heard in England.
"Maybe we should ask him who he is," suggested a fourth with astonishingly curly brown hair.
"Good idea," agreed the girl who held the fourth Yahoo’s hand tightly. Her long blonde hair was pulled back from her pale face.
I sensed them coming back toward me. Frightened out of my wits, I drew my hanger and shouted at them to stay away if they valued their lives. They stopped short when I inadvertently used the name of Yahoo.
"Yahoo?" frowned the curly-haired one.
"Captain Gulliver?" asked the girl and the short one at once, eyes wide.
They came forward again, asking all kinds of questions at once and welcoming me to a place they called Texas. Finally, I was able to get them to talk sensibly and one at a time. Although I still had trouble understanding the strange dialect and varied accents (some of which were worse than the thickest Cockney accent I had ever heard), I was able to learn that this place called Texas was in America; that the American colonies had gained independence from England and now controlled the width of the continent; that the account of my travels had been widely read in the years since its publication; and that I was currently 263 years away from home. The year, they told me, was 1999, and they were in Corpus Christi (the name of the nearest city) for something called a UIL tournament. They offered to take me to their lodgings, and with some reluctance, I accepted. On our way up the beach, they introduced themselves as Tom Jones, Hal Peters, Rob Smith, George Dolens, and Gracie McGregor.
When we got farther inland, Gracie hailed some other Yahoos who sat in what looked like a large yellow building on wheels. One very tall boy with short blond hair came out and spoke with us, and another heavier one followed him.
Having introduced himself as William Davidson, the first of these boys turned to George and Gracie. "Where have y’all been?" he shouted. "Mrs. E’s been ready to leave for ten minutes!"
"That’s a first," Hal whispered to Tom, who snickered.
Gracie’s face dropped its normal intelligence. "Gee, we’re sorry," she replied in a high, slightly stupid voice.
"Don’t apologize, Gracie," George countered, his voice suddenly low and gravelly. "We thought she’d be too busy talking to notice what time it was anyway."
The others started laughing uproariously. When I asked Rob what was so funny, all he could say was that they were pretending to Gracie Allen and George Burns. This made no sense, so I resolved to find out more when these youth were more serious.
"There you are!" called an elder Yahoo who came toward us from another direction. "We’ve got to get a move on if we want to catch the play this afternoon!"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Tom replied, waving his hand to dismiss the thought. "No fear, Mrs. Eldridge. We’ll get to Kingsville on time."
"It doesn’t even start until three, and it’s eleven now," Hal added.
I was introduced again to this and other Yahoos who seemed to be in charge. We entered the building, which I was told is called a bus or yellow dog, and sat down on the benches that stood in rows all the way to the back. This bus was about ten feet wide and thirty feet long. Mrs. Eldridge sat in a chair at the front of the bus, turned a key and pressed some knobs, and the bus began to move! I moved to the seat behind hers to watch. The bus moved on its own, and Mrs. Eldridge steered it with a device similar to the wheel of a boat. I was too enthralled with this marvel of engineering to notice the noise around me. I noticed other buses of various shapes and sizes around us on the road, most of which had different names like car, truck, motorcycle (which had no casing around the people riding, but was more like a mechanical Hoyhnhnm), van, and semi. Collectively, I was told, such machines are known as automobiles, and they are used in place of carriages and wagons to get places by land. William told me about flying machines that are faster and safer than automobiles, but I found his story hard to believe until one flew overhead.
After a short time, Miss Lane (the "teacher" in charge) began to ask me questions about my travels and experiences, which she and her pupils had recently studied in depth. I was able to tell her much about the lands I had visited, but after a time, the youths in the rest of the bus began making such a racket that I could hardly hear. Here are some highlights of this long, boisterous conversation I heard around me.
"Hey, Mrs. E! Crank up the oldies!"
At this, Mrs. Eldridge pushed a knob, and music of a very primitive style came pouring from black boxes strategically placed on the walls. The music was not disagreeable, but much of it did not make sense. For example, one song talked about "You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog." Another said, "I dig [like] rock and roll music," and another by musicians called, oddly enough, the Beatles had lyrics concerning living in a yellow submarine. Miss Lane explained that a submarine is a ship that travels underwater, but that did not make the song much more comprehensible to me.
"Ninety-nine bottles of Coke on the wall, 99 bottles of Coke…"
"No, no, sing something else."
"This is the song that never ends…," which earned Tom five pillows in the face.
"Hey, George, do your imitation of Fred Astaire imitating Jimmy Cagney."
"No, man, the bus is moving. You want me to break my neck?"
"You do and I’ll be sorry!"
"‘E’s crackers, George. Do John Wayne instead."
George put on a drawl similar to Rob’s. "Somebody oughta bust you right in the mouth. But I won’t. I won’t. The blank I won’t!"
"Who’s on first, what’s on second…"
"Wrong accent, Hal."
"Oh, sorry. You try one, Bill."
"I can’t do accents. Gracie, you do one."
Her voice rose shakily. "Oh, Rob!"
"Mary Tyler Moore from The Dick Van Dyke Show!"
"No, actually, that was M*A*S*H. Radar said it."
"Ye canna change the laws of physics, Cap’n!"
The cacophony went on interminably. I understood the words, but the sentences made absolutely no sense. Miss Lane and Mrs. Eldridge explained the best they could, which helped somewhat, but I was still completely at a loss to understand who these youths were imitating and why. I could only conclude that their entire culture revolved around imitating what others had already done.
The afternoon passed pleasantly enough. We traveled from the beach inland to a place called Kingsville and stopped at the university there, where the competitions were being held. George, Gracie, and William, I was told, were on the science team, as was the other boy who greeted me (whose name was Jeremy Oestreich). Hal was among those competing in mathematics, and Rob and Tom participated in Poetry Interpretation. The first two contests, along with many others, consisted of taking a test to prove knowledge in a particular area; the person with the most correct answers won. The poetry contest concerned standing up in front of a judge and reading a piece of poetry. I was glad to see that these people took enough pride in their knowledge to make contests to show it off; yet although I am a doctor, most of the topics discussed were foreign even to me. When William and Gracie complained to Mrs. Eldridge about there being too many electricity problems on the physics test, I gave up trying to understand. (Jeremy and George, being better versed in physics, merely nodded.)
These contests, however, were scheduled for the following day. That afternoon, we watched the One Act Play contest. Each school represented had a set amount of time in which to present a play in one act. I must confess that the topics of these plays were often obscure to me, but the acting, more often than not, was excellent. I thought the players representing my friend’s school performed the best of all, yet the prize was awarded to a group that, in most people’s opinion, had badly overacted. No one could explain to me why this was so, but I did learn that something similar had happened to the marching band at their Area competition for the past six years. This same band had earned the highest possible rating at Region for the past twenty years. I could only imagine what my master Houyhnhnm would have had to say about the character of such judges who clearly ignore true merit and award shoddiness.
Although they were gravely disappointed, these ebullient youth could not remain in poor spirits for long. The journey back to Corpus Christi was rowdier than before, partly because of having twenty or thirty more people on the bus, and senseless jokes flew as fast and furious as imitations had on the way to Kingsville. Many of these poked fun at girls with blonde hair and people called "Longhorns" and "Aggies." I ventured to ask Miss Lane and the theater coach, Mrs. Lansmith, what these titles meant. They explained that the University of Texas, whose mascot was the Texas Longhorn (a breed of cow), and Texas A&M University, whose mascot was the Aggie (which had something to do with agriculture, but I could not figure out what), were great rivals. Graduates and students of each college had a mean opinion of the other group’s intelligence and permitted themselves jokes at the others’ expense. For the most part, these were good-natured and harmless, but sometimes gatherings at which both groups were present degenerated into brawls. Mrs. Lansmith was a confirmed Longhorn, but many of the others present were strong supporters of the Aggies. Gracie declared herself to be a Baylor Bear and kept out of the discussions. I was not surprised to learn that political factions were also strong in this country.
That evening, the assembled group put on a sort of talent show. Some of the boys reenacted a scene from something called The Colditz Story, which apparently was about a German escape-proof prison for British and French officers who constantly tried to escape and occasionally succeeded. In this scene, British Guardsmen drilled like crazy men to cover the escape of another officer hidden in a mattress that some Frenchmen were loading onto a truck. Mrs. Lansmith dressed in a dapper suit with bow tie and mustache and did an impression of someone named Charlie Chaplin. I could not fathom why people laughed so uproariously; she did look ridiculous swinging a cane and walking like a penguin, but I failed to find quite as much humor in it as the others did. Jeremy and William impersonated a comedy team called Laurel and Hardy. Although I had never seen the original scene, I could not help laughing at "Laurel’s" feigned stupidity and "Hardy’s" attempts to remain dignified despite the circumstances. The climax came when Hal, Tom, Rob, and George did a skit involving the antics of a group known as the Marx Brothers. They wanted me to be what they called a straight man, but I pled ignorance and inexperience and asked to be excused. Gracie did it instead, and the result was sheer comedy. Gracie played an ultra-dignified lady, Rob the cigar-wielding Jew named Groucho, Hal an Italian pianist named Chico, George a mute horn-honking harpist named Harpo, and Tom the dashing young Zeppo. Although many of the words were obscure in meaning, the overall insanity could make even the most jaded heathen laugh. When the general hilarity died down, someone sang a few songs, and everyone retired for the night.
I suppose I ought to describe more about these people’s manner of dress, government, laws, and the like. Mostly, they dress in a way they termed casual, with both men and women often wearing pants and a loose upper garment called a T-shirt. These are often decorated with all manner of images and sayings. When they do put on good clothes, for going to church, business, or some other special occasion, the women do wear dresses, yet nothing anyone wore while I was there even faintly resembled the fashions of Europe at any time with which I was acquainted. Girls have a tendency to show much more skin than was appropriate, but some are very modest. Even women go bathing, and their state of near-undress was scandalous.
When I inquired about their government, Gracie referred me to their Constitution and a radio program hosted by a man named Rush Limbaugh. I read the former first; it stated clearly what the government could and could not do and had been amended several times over its 200-year history. Although I could not quite grasp the idea of leaving government in the hands of the people, the sentiments expressed were admirable. Nevertheless, from the discussions held on Rush Limbaugh’s program, I learned that there seemed to be serious problems with this system of government. There are two parties; the first, which generally stands for doing right, is constantly being bullied by the other, which stands for an impossibly varied and incredible set of beliefs unified only by the firm belief that they must never admit the other side to be right. Their President (for so they called their elected king) was so corrupt that not even his own party members could trust him, but when a trial was held to decide whether or not to remove him from office, most people voted to acquit him, even though there was clear evidence that he was an adulterer and perjurer. The more varied group, called the Democrats, advocates bizarre things like animal rights, nature worship and other pagan practices, homosexuality, and abortion (the killing of unborn children); yet these groups constantly contradict themselves in an attempt to prove the other side, Republicans, wrong. I could not but wonder if the disgust I felt were anything akin to what my master Houyhnhnm and the King of Brobdingnag felt when I described English government.
The laws of this land are many and varied. Some are short and clear, but others are open to so many interpretations that, although judges are for the most part more just than in England, lawyers can twist the laws to place the blame of, say, a murder on the person who manufactured the gun rather than on the person who pulled the trigger. Some laws are outright ridiculous. Satanists can express themselves however crudely at public schools and get away with it, for example; but Christians cannot assemble simple wooden crosses in a woodworking class for fear of being intolerant of other people’s views. This is not true in all places, but such an unjust view is becoming more prevalent. In some areas, landowners cannot build houses or cut down trees for fear of killing a rare species of animal. These are only a few examples, which I was assured had come about only in the past few years.
Education is very different from any system I had ever seen. Boys and girls are educated together from the time they are five years old until they complete what is known as high school, from which they can continue to college, trade school, work, or service in the armed forces. Their education is entirely secular, and teachers cannot teach that God created the world. Instead, students learn the ridiculous story that the universe arose from chance and that men are descended from monkeys. Scientists have found ample proof to dismiss this notion, but the most stubborn of them have convinced officials that the idea of creation must not be allowed to be taught. Subjects are taught for only a set length of time each day, and students are seldom disciplined as strictly as they are in England. Indeed, many instructors have an amiable relationship with their charges. The main drawback of this system is that the pupils often have too much time on their hands and get into trouble. However, the best and brightest are usually too busy with sports, music, and other healthy activities to find mischief into which to get; indeed, they often complain of being overcommitted and not having enough time to accomplish all their assigned tasks.
The American society admits no classes. Certainly, there are differences in opportunity and wealth, but all American citizens are supposedly given equal representation in government and equal protection under the law. Nevertheless, Democrats have insisted on subdividing this incredibly diverse culture into minorities to attempt to overpower the greater good. For example, one judge ruled that a very low minimum standard for college entry for athletes was unfair to students of African heritage and should thus be thrown out. In spite of all this, the populace is still largely of European heritage, hard-working, and Christian.
This culture is, as I have said before, highly diverse. It blends the cultures of the people, from the natives to those who come from halfway around the world, to give a very unique culture, yet it does not deny that any of its parts exist. Each State has a different story, a different heritage, and the citizens of each are very proud of that heritage. As noted earlier, the Democrats use divisive tactics to keep these cultures from getting along with one another, but I doubt that they will succeed in the end.
These people have made mind-boggling advances in science and technology. For example, they have a device known as a radio with which they can receive sound from far-off places. One machine changes the sound into an electric signal, which is picked up by a metal rod called an antenna attached to the radio box. Something inside the box converts the signal back into sound, which comes out the "speakers." Another device, the television, works on much the same principle, but it receives pictures, which are displayed on a large screen on the front of the box, with the sound. Such moving pictures can be recorded on film or a type of tape and replayed later; "movies," motion pictures shown in a sort of theater, are a common form of entertainment. Recording devices exist for still pictures and sound as well. Sound can also be recorded on round pieces of a synthetic material called vinyl to make "records" or on smaller pieces of metal called "compact discs" or "CDs." They have a great number of books and other methods of communicating information, as well. One such thing is a telephone, which allows sound to travel great distances over wires between two handsets, each of which has a device for sending sounds and another for receiving them. Another machine used to store and send information is the computer. I could not understand exactly how all the intricate steps are performed, but the computer box can store a large amount of information on something called a hard drive. A computer can also be connected to a telephone line so that written information, pictures, etc., can be sent to other places via a system called the Internet. (George and Gracie tried to explain it all to me, but their explanation didn’t make much sense.)
These advances have also made domestic life much easier. In fact, servants are seldom necessary because the family is able to clean the entire house with much greater ease than I have ever known in England. Fireplaces, candles, and oil lamps are seldom used other than for decoration. Houses are lighted, heated, and even cooled by merely moving a lever. I was told that this wonder has come about through the ability to harness electrical power. This same electricity runs machines that wash and dry clothes, keep food cold, cook food by bombarding it with "microwaves" (a type of invisible light wave), clean carpets, heat water for baths, and do many other menial jobs. Even the stoves and ovens are powered by electricity in most homes. All but the poorest houses have running water and indoor water closets. The sanitation system is incredibly good, and most people bathe at least once a week.
Although this so-called Information Age has great advantages, many people find innumerable problems with it. Many spend immoderate amounts of time talking on the telephone or watching television, spending less and less time cultivating arts like conversation, writing, reading, and other wholesome activities. There is also great fear that computers will fail to recognize the year 2000, mistaking it for 1900 and refusing to operate, which could conceivably shut down the entire nation for an indefinite period of time. Many scholars find this last notion preposterous, but there are unscrupulous souls who take advantage of the laymen’s lack of knowledge on the subject to exploit them.
Despite my confusion, George and Gracie were able to help me understand enough to learn more about these people and this world on my own. Although I hope to write a separate account of my findings, I shall speak briefly about my conclusions. It seems that the culture has gone through many changes, especially since the last great war. Television and movies, in particular, began as very edifying forms of entertainment. However, when an entire generation revolted against the virtues of their heritage, the result was an increase in violence, drug abuse, and general depravity. These changes showed up in the popular culture, creating a downward spiral. In short, the programs showing on many areas of television and a great many movies became nothing short of filth. I was more convinced than ever that these Yahoos showed the same evil tendencies as those I met in every other land to which I traveled.
Nevertheless, my first friends were endeavoring to rise above the vices so prevalent around them, and I could not help admiring many virtues that they exhibited. They did not take themselves or any situation too seriously for long, and their infectious sense of humor often overpowered the despondency in which I found myself. Above all, their faith in God was unshakable. Gracie had been a Christian the longest, and although she had led her four friends to Christ herself, they were all able to help each other grow in virtue and grace.
As it was, I spent a very pleasant four years in that land, during which I explored the various glories of that vast continent and met a great number of very friendly people and Houyhnhnms. In fact, I was beginning to feel quite comfortable in my new surroundings, which I hope to describe in depth in a separate account. Nevertheless, it pleased God to change my situation yet again.
A large group of my young friends decided to journey to Austin, the capital city of Texas, and invited me to go with them. I graciously accepted, and we traveled in a sort of caravan to a "mall" (a large number of shops all together in one building). At some point, I became separated from the group while we were in the mall. I was about to be sick from close contact with so many Yahoos and despair of ever finding my companions again when a familiar voice called my name. I turned to find Captain Q leering at me.
"Had a pleasant stay, Captain Gulliver?" he asked in a mock-pleasant voice.
I replied that I had, completely forgetting all I had learned about that pernicious man (who was not a man at all, but a creature from beyond this world). My relief at seeing a familiar face drove all memory of the things I had read and seen out of my mind. I do not doubt that Q himself might have partially caused that unnatural trust.
"Good," he grinned wickedly, "because now it’s time to go. You seem to have adapted to this culture very well. In fact, you remind me of another captain I know named Picard. Seems like he was called Locutus of Borg."
Before I could protest, a blinding flash of light surrounded me. All I could hear was Q’s evil laugh ringing in my ears for some time. When I recovered my senses, I found myself in a dark room full of wires and machines even more bizarre than those I had seen in Texas. I was being watched by odd-looking people dressed only in black; men and women alike were bald. Unable to recognize my surroundings, I ventured to ask where I was.
"Welcome," a monotone voice responded. "We are Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile."