Thursday, November 6, 2008

"Celebrating The Election Of The First Black President"

"Simcha" is a Hebrew word meaning celebration. ("Simcha’s" adjectival cousin "sa-may-ach" means happy.) Electing the first black president of the United States is clearly a happy moment in our history. In the Jewish tradition, however, at the beginning of every celebration, a moment is always taken to recall those who, through natural causes or otherwise, were unable make it to that day.

It therefore behooves us, or maybe just me, to take a moment to remember the other side of our history (and how easily we fell into it.)


Slavery was a really bad idea.

(An acknowledgement: Canada didn’t have slavery. The explanation for this can be found, I believe, not in Canada’s moral superiority but in two illuminating words: no cotton.)

Traditionally, when you’re rich, or just lazy, and there’s a job to be done that’s tedious, backbreaking or too yucky, you’d pay someone else to do it – clean out the chimneys, empty the chamber pots, slaughter the chickens. Or pick cotton in the blistering heat.

It seems, however, when it comes to cotton-picking, someone came up with an even better solution. Not being up on my plantation history, I can’t say how this really bad decision was originally made. I can only fall back on is my imagination:

AN EARLY PLANTATION OWNER sits behind his desk, writing in his ledger with a feather. Another PLANTATION OWNER comes in, and sits down facing the first PLANTATION OWNER.

“You wanted to see me?”

“Sit down!”

“I am sitting down.”

“I know. That’s just my way of saying ‘I have exciting news!’”

“Well, it’s very confusing. Saying ‘Sit down!’ to someone already in a seated position.”

“What should I have said?”

“I don’t know. ‘Hold onto your hat!’”

“You’re not wearing a hat.”

“Agreed. But ‘Sit down!’, as we’ve just determined, can mean two things, while ‘Hold onto your hat!’ can mean only one.

“Not true. What if a sudden wind were to kick up, and I said…?”

“I meant indoors.”

“…oh. Well, in that case, you’re correct.”

“Now, what is it you wanted to tell me?”

“Of course. (WITH AN EXCITED GIGGLE) “Hold onto your hat!”

“It’s that good.”

“It’s inspired. (LEANING IN, IN A CONSPIRATORIAL MANNER) “You know the enterprise we are engaged in…”

“The cotton business.”

“Just so. Well, I have discovered an ingenious method of increasing our profits.”

“You have?”

Greatly increasing. I mean, by plenty.”

“That’s wonderful! What’s the plan?”

“I knew you’d be excited.”

“Tell! Tell!”

“You know those terrible workmen we’re paying to pick our cotton?”

“You mean those unsavory white fellows who do a substandard job and never sing?”

“The very same. Well, I propose that we send those substandard pickers packing, and replace them with – are you ready? – slaves.


“Is that not the most ingenious…”

“Be ye daft?”

“Hello. Why have you suddenly turned into a pirate?”

“I have not suddenly turned into a pirate. I am merely expressing my perplexity in a colorful manner.”

“But there’s nothing daft about it. Slave labor has many advantages, the greatest, of course, being: We don’t have to pay them.”

“Because they’re slaves.”

“Who, by custom, habit and definition are not entitled to compensation.”

“Hm. You may have something here.”

“‘May’, nothing! Do you realize what this means? (POINTING TO LEDGER) Under this column marked ‘Labor Expenses’, we can henceforth inscribe: ‘Zero.’”

“Sweet Juniper! Free pickers!”

“Precisely the concept.”

“We’d be subtracting a major expense!”

“And we’ll always need pickers. I may be new to this undertaking, but if there’s one thing I know it’s that cotton doesn’t just jump off the thing it grows on and hop into the thing one puts it into.”

“A problem cleverly solved. And yet…”


“I wonder if it’s wrong.”

“If what’s wrong?”

“You know, the whole slavery business.”

“What’s wrong about it?’

“It’s slavery.”

“Oh, now. Slavery is hardly new.”

“That’s true. We’d be simply perpetuating a long, albeit dishonorable, tradition.”

“It's in the Bible."

"Truly said."

"So you agree then?”

“Slavery it is! But let it never be said that we didn’t stop and think.”

Okay, that’s done. Now on with the celebration.


A reminder on my two hundredth posting: If you're interested in being written back, you can reach me at


Keith said...

Slavery is still a really bad idea. Over 50,000 women every year are forced into sex slavery in the US. It's just a little easier to disregard than back when things were color-coded. At least Colin Powell tried to do something about it when he was in power. Other than that, most of us (including me) find it easier to turn a blind eye. Maybe Randy Newman needs to update his lyrics to "Sail Away". Of course, who listens to Randy Newman anymore?

Anonymous said...

Richard Pryor was WAYYYYY ahead on this:



Anonymous said...

Actually, nobody EVER listened to Randy Newman, with the exception of a few overly-sensitive vertically challenged complainers. Not that Newman has anything to do with anything to begin with.

50,000 new sex slaves every year? Here in the US? Are you nuts? You’re making that up. If that were the case, over the last ten years all of us would have known at least one or two of the freshly enslaved half-million women personally, and thus be at least slightly aware of the enormity of the problem. Who are these women? Where are they being held? Fifty thousand is three quarters a football stadium full...That’s an awful lot of our family, friends, and neighbors to disappear with nobody noticing every single year.

And Colin Powell was doing something about it? What are you talking about? The Secretary of State’s job is to interface diplomatically with other governments. You’re telling me that Powell was, in addition to addressing the UN on Iraqi WMDs, also leading Elliot Ness-style raids on clandestine US holding pens full of tens of thousands of our freshly enslaved friends and neighbors? You’d think the newspapers would’ve mentioned that. Or that Condi Rice would’ve continued such important work.

Frankly, gnasche, I’d suggest that you report to your nearest mental health clinic for a complete checkup.

Keith said...

Well, I'm not making it up, but I suppose it's possible that the US state department is:

growingupartists said...

And I don't think the sex slaves are just women T.J., nice fantasy though, they are also children, and I would assume, men.

Anonymous said...

Three thousand years ago our people were slaves in Egypt.
And then, from what I just read based on attitude and dialog, we apparently became plantation owning slavemasters. (Although I'm pretty sure neither one of them was hatless.)

I once told Larry Hagman that I used to write my own comedy routines and it seem like no matter how they started out, they always ended up Jewish. His droll observation, "Just like in Hollywood."

[Sorry, I only get to drop in from time to time.]

Anonymous said...


Oddly, that link goes to a “page not found” message. Mind double checking?

Is it possible that you intended to say 50,000 a year in the entire world, rather than just in the US? I’d be inclined to buy into that. And if the bulk of that happened outside of the US it might explain the involvement of the State Department. Not to mention why none of us are noticing our wives, daughters, neighbors, and/or coworkers are being carted off into sex slavery.

Keith said...

The link works fine for me. Make sure you're copying the whole thing and pasting it in your address bar. Maybe this accepts links...I'll try:


Worldwide is over 700,000 (to 4mil according to the link). It's not US Citizens that I'm talking about here. It's women abroad (mostly SE Asia and Russia) who are told they have jobs and a new life in the US. That's why the state department is involved.

Anonymous said...

Earl, your Canada is showing.

There have actually been a few black Presidents. This is just the first U.S. one :)

Love the blog, by the way.

Anonymous said...


The second link worked. Thank you.

I was away from the computer for a few days, and I forgot to get back to this comment section until now. My apologies.

Powell did say that “Approximately 50,000 people are trafficked into the United States every year.” The report itself, however, states that “more people fall victim to labor forms of trafficking than sex trafficking.” (Here: )

To sum this up, I will say that I am now more inclined to accept your statement. However, to state that “Over 50,000 women every year are forced into sex slavery in the US” is not entirely accurate. They’re not all women, and more of them are forced into labor than into sex.

Fair enough?

Anonymous said...

Hi Earl,

Thought I should correct you on the issue of slavery in Canada. Many people think there wasn't slavery here because of all the stories of people bravely escaping from the US and coming here. However, our country did unfortunately have slavery, it just ended earlier than in the Southern US.

Thanks for the blog! Wish I wasn't responding in such a depressing way...