Well, with the American military presence in Iraq winding down–as much as American military presence in the world every really winds down–we can officially say this war is over. As we prepare to begin a new year, which will most certainly bring us new wars, it seems especially appropriate to share the words of Mr. Dooley, the satirical voice of nineteenth century humorist Finley Peter Dunne, as he offers up his conversational wisdom on another, similar American imperialistic endeavor in the Philippines. (The following has been edited from the original for readability.)
“I know what I’d do if I was Mack,” said Mr. Hennessy. “I’d hoist a flag over th’ Ph’lippeens, an’ I’d take in th’ whole lot of them.”
“An’ yet,” said Mr. Dooley, “tis not more then two months since ye learned whether they were islands or canned goods. Your back yard is so small that your cow can’t turn round without buttin’ th’ woodshed off th’ premises, an’ ye wouldn’t go out to th’ stock yards without takin’ out a policy on your life. Suppose ye was standin’ at th’ corner of State Street an’ Archy Road, wud ye know what car to take to get to th’ Ph’lippeens? If your son Packy was to ask ye where th’ Ph’lippeens is, could ye give him any good idea whether they was in Rooshia or jus’ west of th’ tracks?”
“Maybe I couldn’t,” said Mr. Hennessy, haughtily, “but I’m f’r takin’ them in, anyhow.”
“So might I be,” said Mr. Dooley, “if I could on’y get me mind on it. One of the worst things about this here war is th’ way it’s makin’ puzzles f’r our poor, tired heads. When I went into it, I thought all I’d have to do was to set up here behind th’ bar with a good tin-cent cigar in me teeth, an’ toss dynamite bombs into th’ hated city of Havana. But look at me now. Th’ war is still goin’ on; an’ every night, when I’m countin’ up the cash, I’m askin’ myself will I annex Cubia or leave it to the Cubians? Will I take Porther Ricky or put it by? An’ what should I do with the Ph’lippeens? Oh, what should I do with them? I can’t annex them because I don’t know where they are. I can’t let go of them because some one else’ll take them if I do. They are eight thousan’ of them islands, with a population of one hundred million naked savages; an’ me bedroom’s crowded now with me an’ th’ bed. How can I take them in, an’ how on earth am I goin’ to cover th’ nakedness of them savages with me one suit of clothes? An’ yet ‘twud break me heart to think of givin’ people I never see or heard tell of back to other people I don’t know. An’, if I don’t take them, Schwartzmeister down th’ street, that has half me trade already, will grab them sure.
“It ain’t that I’m afraid of not doin’ th’ right thing in th’ end, Hinnissy. Some mornin’ I’ll wake up an’ know jus’ what to do, an’ that I’ll do. But ’tis th’ annoyance in th’ meantime. I’ve been readin’ about th’ country. ‘Tis over beyond your left shoulder when you’re facin’ east. Jus’ throw your thumb back, an’ ye have it as accurate as any man in town. ‘Tis farther then Boohlgahrya an’ not so far as Blewchoochoo. It’s near Chiny, an’ it’s not so near; an’, if a man was to bore a well through fr’m Goshen, Indiana, he might strike it, an’ then again he might not. It’s a poverty-stricken country, full of gold an’ precious stones, where th’ people can pick dinner off th’ trees an’ are starvin’ because they have no step-ladders. Th’ inhabitants is mostly naygurs an’ Chinnymen, peaceful, industrious, an’ law-abidin’, but savage an’ bloodthirsty in their methods. They wear no clothes except what they have on, an’ each woman has five husbands an’ each man has five wives. Th’ rest goes into th’ discard, th’ same as here. Th’ islands has been owned be Spain since before th’ fire; an’ she’s treated them so well they’re now up in arms again her, except a majority of them which is thoroughly loyal. Th’ natives seldom fight, but when they get mad at one another they run-a-muck. When a man r-runs-a-muck, sometimes they hang him an’ sometimes they discharge him an’ hire a new motorman. Th’ women are beautiful, with languishin’ black eyes, an’ they smoke cigars, but are hurried an’ incomplete in their dress. I see a picture of one th’ other day with nawthin’ on her but a basket of coconuts an’ a hoop-skirt. They’re no prudes. We import juke, hemp, cigar wrappers, sugar, an’ fairy tales from th’ Ph’lippeens, an’ export six-inch shells an’ th’ like. Of late th’ Ph’lippeens has awaked to th’ fact that they’re behind th’ times, an’ has received much American amminition in their midst. They say th’ Spanyards is all tore up about it.
“I learned all this fr’m th’ papers, an’ I know ’tis straight. An’ yet, Hinnissy, I dunno what to do about th’ Ph’lippeens. An’ I’m all alone in th’ world. Everybody else has made up his mind. Ye ask any conductor on Archy Road, an’ he’ll tell ye. Ye can find out fr’m the papers; an’, if ye really want to know, all ye have to do is to ask a prominent citizen who can mow all th’ lawn he owns with a safety razor. But I don’t know.”
“Hang on to them,” said Mr. Hennessy, stoutly. “What we’ve got we must hold.”
“Well,” said Mr. Dooley, “if I was Mack, I’d leave it to George. I’d say: ‘George,’ I’d say, ‘if you’re for hangin’ on, hang on it is. If ye say, lave go, I drop them.’ ‘Twas George won them with th’ shells, an’ th’ question’s up to him.”