The Stars and Bars

My sister and I were recently back in the Piney Woods of East Texas for Mother’s funeral. On US highway 59 on the northern outskirts of Nacogdoches, there’s a nondescript warehousy-looking building, its finest feature being a very substantial, very tall flagpole. My sharp-eyed sister spotted a problem, though. Proudly displayed at the top was a gigantic Confederate flag and beneath that a middle-sized Texas flag. No US flag. The kind of place where you could go sit on sacks of ammonium nitrate and discuss problems with minorities. Makes me gag to remember that I volunteered for the Army in the early sixties to preserve these people’s liberty.

LATE NOTE: In July of 2008 I was notified that the Confederate flag was no longer being flow at that location. I consider that progress.

This outrage reminded me of a spectacular quotation I recently ran across. Max Liebermann, on a fine Spring morning in 1933, as he looked out his apartment window at the Sturmabteilung parading down Unter den Linden, said:

Ich kann nicht so viel fressen wie ich kotzen möchte.

This was translated in the Threepenny Review as “I can’t eat enough to vomit as much as I would like.” But this seems a bit roundabout and glosses over the difference between essen and fressen, the former reserved for humans and the latter for animals. How about “I can’t gobble as much as I would like to vomit.”

But this loses the emphasis on the sheer quantity of vomit (at least up to the tops of the jackboots) that one would want to spew forth. So I submit from my friend Jim (whose Turkish, incidentally, is even better than his German owing to an indiscretion of his youth) “There is no way I could ever eat enough to produce the vomit the sight required.”

Oh well. This language play is practice for an increasingly likely month of May in Amsterdam. I need a break, and picking on a minor language somehow seems just right. What with the number of repetitions it takes to pound anything into my memory, I’m clearly not going to develop a large vocabulary, but I have high hopes of getting an acceptable pronunciation.

And yes, when the Aliens land and can speak only Dutch, won’t you be happy that I’ll be able to save us. The grateful populace will strew my path with rose petals as they acclaim me President for Life, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, and Protector of the Unilingual.

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