The Turn of the 21st Century Part I

Tired of their leaders’ inability to create any sort of harmony on Earth, the world’s nations got together one day to try to work out their problems themselves. This is an account of what transpired at that meeting.

“Alright,” said the United States. “Are we ready to begin?”

“Excuse me,” said France. “But who made the U.S. president of the world? And why is it running this meeting?”

“I made myself president,” replied the U.S. “And I’m running this meeting because I can, so shut up.”

“I motion for the removal of the United States from the presidency of the world,” replied France.

“I second that motion,” said French Guinea.

“Well I make a counter-motion stating that no one likes France,” responded the U.S.

“Seconded,” said Algeria.

“And what is French Guinea doing here?” continued the U.S. “It’s a French territory.”

“Commonwealth,” replied French Guinea. “And North Korea let me in.”

“Now why would you do something like that?” asked the U.S.

“Out of spite. Sue me,” replied North Korea.

“Right. French Guinea can stay. Let’s just get this meeting started. I’ll begin by taking roll.”

“I object,” said Russia.

“Russia, why do you always feel the need to object to everything I do?”

“Because I’m bigger than you.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“I’m sorry,” responded Russia. “I can’t hear your puny voice over the booming sound of my breathing. Could you please repeat that?”

“God you’re such a jerk,” said the U.S. “Whatever. We’re taking role.”

“I motion that roll should be taken in reverse alphabetical order,” said Zambia.

“No, dammit!” responded the United States, more than a little annoyed at the direction of the proceedings. “I’m taking role alphabetically and that’s that. Now let’s begin. Is Afghanistan here?”

Only the sound of Iran coughing on Israel broke the silence that reigned over the meeting.

“Afghanistan?” repeated the U.S.

More silence.

“Where the hell is Afghanistan?” asked the U.S.

“Well, all the world’s states are present at this meeting,” stated Slovenia. “Perhaps Afghanistan is not a true country.”

“What nonsense is this?” answered the U.S. “Of course Afghanistan is a country. It has defined borders on a map. It has to be a country!”

“Then why isn’t Afghanistan at this meeting?” asked Kazakhstan.

“Of course it is!” answered the U.S.

“I see a conspicuous lack of Afghanistan,” said Kyrgyzstan.

 “Well it has to be here somewhere,” said the U.S. looking around.

Just then, the United States fell backwards from its chair with a yell, and hit itself on the wall behind. It groaned in agony as blood ran freely from a deep gash at the back of its head. A rat scurried out from beneath the U.S. and into Afghanistan’s desk. A host of countries rushed to the United States’ assistance.

“Are you ok?” asked Great Britain.

“Do you need help getting up?” asked Spain.

“Do you need medical attention?” asked the Netherlands.

“I’m hurt, but I’ll be fine,” replied the U.S. tersely as it rose to its feet and examined its chair. “Apparently, the rat that just ran off chewed through the two back legs of my chair.”

“What are you going to do?” asked the Czech Republic.

“Get my revenge,” replied the U.S. darkly. “I am going to hunt down and kill every rat, everywhere.” The anger steadily rose in its voice. “I am going to flush them out, drive them out of their hiding places, and kill every last one of them.”

“Come on, U.S.” responded France. “We all understand that you are upset—and rightfully so—but there will always be rats. You can reduce their numbers, manage the damage they do, but you cannot possibly expect to kill every rat in existence.”

“I will kill every rat, everywhere!” repeated the United States. “I am declaring a War on Rats! And if you are not with me, then you are against me!”

“Whoa, whoa, calm down U.S.” said Italy. “We all empathize with your anger and frustration, and we will destroy the rat that chewed through your chair together, but do not confuse your friends with your enemies and lash out against those that want to help you. What France is saying is that rats have been around since the dawn of time. They are everywhere, and when they get out of hand we manage the problem. Take some time for introspection before you embark on a rash course.”

“I have no time to waste on introspection!” replied the U.S. “Only action!”

“Take some time to think things through,” said the Czech Republic. “Draw up a well-organized plan, and we will do what we can to help you achieve it.”

“I’m tired of this nonsense!” said the U.S., finally running out of patience. “No thinking! Just doing! Did anyone see where that rat went?”

“I think I saw it run into Afghanistan’s desk,” said India.

“Fine. I don’t have the luxury of wasting time on thinking, or plans, or other means of wasting my time. I’ll take care of this myself.”

The United States opened its desk, grabbed a baseball bat, strode to Afghanistan’s empty desk, and started smashing it to pieces. It exploded with rats upon the first hit like an overstuffed piñata. The U.S. chased down and bludgeoned every rodent it saw. Some, however, managed to get away and scampered into Pakistan’s desk.

“Pakistan!” yelled the United States. “Kill those rats!”

“Ummm… what rats?” asked Pakistan.

“The rats that are in your desk!” replied the U.S. “I just saw them run in there.”

“I don’t have any rats in my desk,” said Pakistan, its eyes shifting uneasily from side to side.

“Yes you do!” shouted the U.S. “Stop lying!”

“Alright, maybe a couple of rats,” responded Pakistan. “But they’re really far back in the corners, and there’s stuff in the way…”

“I swear Pakistan, if you don’t start killing some rats, I’m going to march right over there and kill you.”

“Oh, alright,” said Pakistan as it grabbed a small rat and crushed it under its foot. “Are you happy now?”

“No,” replied the United States. “But it’s a start. Now I need to do something about that empty Afghani seat.”

The United States rushed out of the meeting and into the street outside. Several minutes passed uneventfully except for Iran sneezing on Saudi Arabia.

“What the hell?” ejaculated Saudi Arabia.

“Sorry, sorry,” replied Iran. “It won’t happen again.”

The United States burst back into the meeting holding a homeless man with blatantly violent psychological problems.

“Sorry about that,” said the U.S. as the homeless man struggled in its hold while muttering some incomprehensible babble. “I tried to hurry back as soon as I could. I knew it wouldn’t be long before the international system collapsed without my presence.”

“No. Everything went on just fine without you,” said Japan.

“So nothing happened?”

“Iran sneezed on me,” tattled Saudi Arabia.

“Well cut that out,” said the U.S.

“I did,” said Iran.

“What is that supposed to be?” motioned Germany as the homeless man continued to jerk about under the United States’ grip.

“This,” replied the U.S. “Is Afghanistan. The Afghani seat was empty, so I found someone to take it.”

“And where, pray tell, did you find Afghanistan?” asked Tajikistan.

“In the gutter outside.”

“How cliché,” muttered France.

“And you did not think to take your time and find a more adequate individual to take a country’s seat?” asked India.

“God, no. I had time constraints.”

“And what time constraints would those be?” inquired Russia.

“I was faced with an urgent dilemma that needed to be solved immediately. I did not have the luxury of taking my time.”

“So you rushed yourself to find a solution to a problem of your own making?” asked Turkmenistan.

“Correct,” responded the U.S. as it wrestled Afghanistan into its seat.

“Uh, I don’t know if I’m comfortable with this,” said Pakistan as it eyed Afghanistan warily.

“Oh calm yourself,” said the U.S. “I am in complete control of Afghanistan. You are perfectly safe.”

At just that moment, Afghanistan wrenched itself from the U.S.’s grip and punched Pakistan squarely in the jaw.

“Oh, this is too good,” chuckled China.

“What the hell?” yelled Pakistan. “Control that psychotic asshole!”

“I might need a little help here,” said the U.S. as Afghanistan continued to struggle its way out of its grip. “Um, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, do you mind lending a hand?”

“You got yourself into this predicament,” said Canada. “Why should we be the ones to get you out of it?”

“Because I asked politely. Now come help me.”

Afghanistan pried itself away from the U.S. and lunged feet-first at Yemen, landing a massive dragon kick dead center of its sternum.

“Someone better do something about this!” exclaimed Saudi Arabia.

“Fine,” said Germany. “Let’s go.”

Great Britain, Germany, Canada, and the U.S. yanked Afghanistan off Yemen, carried it back to its seat, and expended several roles of duct tape tying it down.

“Well now that that’s over and done with…” said the U.S.

“What do you mean ‘over and done with?’” interrupted an indignant Saudi Arabia. “You haven’t gotten that basket case of your own making remotely under control yet.”

“Now that that’s over and done with,” repeated the U.S. in a louder voice. “I can move on to the next greatest threat to my sovereignty.”

“And what is that?” asked Mexico.

“Iraq,” responded the U.S.

Most every country gave the United States a look they usually reserved for people who collect and preserve their own toenail clippings.

“What the hell are you talking about?” asked France.

“Iraq has been sheltering the very same rats that attacked me in its desk,” replied the U.S. “What’s more, its been training them to carry out even worse attacks.”

“Are you absolutely daft?” asked a very stunned Iraq after taking a little time to process the United States’ accusations. “I don’t have any rats in my desk. That is the absolutely dumbest claim in a long line of dumb things that you have ever said.”

“You do too have rats in your desk!” retorted an incensed United States. “And I can prove it! I have pictures!”

The United States opened its briefcase and held up a paper.

“This is absolutely indisputable proof that Iraq is harboring rats, and is planning on using them to conduct attacks against myself and my friends!”

“Let me see that paper,” said Germany.

“Gladly!” responded the U.S. “Here you go.”

The United States handed Germany the paper. Germany studied it for a several seconds.

“The edges are torn,” said Germany.

“Yes well, what matters is not the state of the document itself, but what it substantiates,” replied the U.S.

Germany looked it over a few moments more.

“And it has almost certainly been torn from a child’s coloring book,” continued Germany.

“Well…ummmm… I’m sure don’t know what you are talking about,” said the U.S. nervously.

“It’s a picture of a gerbil taken from a coloring book,” said Germany.

“Ummm… no it’s not…”

“And someone has scrawled the word “RAT” underneath it.”

“I…don’t know what you are talking about…”

“And it seems that same person has drawn a rather crude hand grenade on the gerbil’s back with a blue crayon.”

“That is preposterous!” replied the U.S. after pausing and gaining some of its composure. “This document is absolute proof of Iraq’s misdealing.”

“It’s a picture of a gerbil with a hand grenade drawn on its back,” corrected Germany.

The U.S. was done with composure.

“No it isn’t!” pouted a thoroughly peeved United States while clenching its fists stomping its feet. “It’s all the proof I need! I’m going to attack Iraq! Whoever wants to come is welcome! Whoever doesn’t…well… go screw yourself!”

Great Britain, Spain, Italy, Poland, Australia, South Korea, Georgia, Ukraine, and the Netherlands stood up from their desks and advanced on Iraq with the United States.

“This is insanity!” cried Iraq, “I pose no threat to any of you!”

“Shut you damned mouth and take a beating with composure,” replied the U.S.

They all fell on top of the hapless country, and quickly hammered it into submission.

Iraq lay broken and bleeding on the floor, ignored by its victors. The United States and its allies stood about the scene of conflict, idly making conversation over what they should do with their vanquished enemy. Sensing an opportunity to come back from the mauling they received at the U.S.’s hands, some of the rats in Pakistan’s desk scurried out of their sanctuary and into Iraq’s, and then Yemen’s desks. Those in the Iraqi desk swarmed over the conquerors, biting into their exposed hands, faces, and necks. One made its way into Spain’s trousers and bit clean through its Achilles tendon. Spain toppled over, face-planting hard on the floor.

“Forget this!” said Spain as it got up and hobbled back to its seat. “The rest of you can deal with the rats. I’ve had enough!”

Shortly thereafter, Great Britain received a nasty bite to the back of the neck as it struggled to pry the rats off itself, but continued fighting.

Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, and learning from the misfortunes that had befallen their friends, the Netherlands and Italy went back to their seats immediately. Australia, Poland, Ukraine, South Korea, and Georgia were next. Exhausted, bloodied, and disenchanted with the whole proceedings, Great Britain finally left as well.

Seeing the success their comrades were having against the United States and its partners, the rest of the rats in Pakistan’s desk rushed out and ferociously attacked Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Pakistan beat the majority of them back into the corners of the desk’s drawers. Nevertheless, one would periodically jump out and give it a nasty bite.

Afghanistan had no such luck. Unable to force the rats off itself due to the duct tape wrapped around its body, it lay helpless, completely unable to defend itself. As the United States remained resolutely absorbed with its Iraqi debacle, they recolonized the battered remains of Afghanistan’s desk, and ran up and its body, mercilessly sinking their teeth into its flesh when and where they pleased.

Still suffering from the effects of the blows it received in the initial attack, Iraq flew into a series of violent spasms. It jerked uncontrollably back and forth across the floor, violently slamming its flailing arms, legs, and head against desks and chairs, and doing a tremendous amount of damage to itself. Seeing this, the United States grabbed Iraq, slapped it out of its seizure, and propped it uneasily back into its chair. Together, they methodically killed off the majority of the rats in its desk, and running across the carpet about them. Eventually, they forced the survivors to retreat into the further confines of the desk.

“Alright Iraq,” said the U.S. “Do you think you can handle yourself from here on out?”

“Can I handle myself from here on out?” demanded Iraq angrily. “You senselessly attacked me under completely fabricated pretenses, beat me into a seizure, and created the perfect circumstances for the rats to make a haven for themselves out of my desk. And now you want to know if I can handle myself!?”

“Well…can you?”

“Yes dammit! Just leave me alone!”

“Good enough for me,” and the United States as it turned its attention back to a lacerated and bleeding Afghanistan.

Noticing that everyone’s attention was elsewhere, Pakistan quietly opened its desk, pulled out a rodent, and flung it at India.

The rat landed squarely on India’s head, clawing at its eyes and biting its nose. Caught completely off guard, and thoroughly surprised by the fierceness of the attack, India hesitated while the rat continued to tear into its face. Finally, after a full minute had gone by, it grabbed the rat off itself, and bashed it into the ground.

“Pakistan!” screamed India. “You filthy breeder of vermin! I know it was who threw that rat!”

“I did no such thing!” insisted Pakistan.

“Yes you did you barefaced liar!” responded India. “I have a right mind to go over there and bash your head in!”

“Well come on them,” replied Pakistan, getting up from its chair. “Bring it!”

“Gladly!” said India as it also rose from its chair.

Several countries interposed themselves between the would-be belligerents.

“Come on, Pakistan. Just calm down. This is no time to be starting a meaningless war,” said the United States, as irony of its words zoomed unnoticed over its head.

“Take it easy, India,” said Great Britain to India. “Don’t let this escalate unnecessarily.”

India and Pakistan sat back down, but kept a very close eye on each other.

As the U.S. walked back to Afghanistan, one of the rats that had remained hidden until that point jumped out Yemen’s desk, soared through the air, and came within inches of landing a bite on the United States’ left ear. Instead, it whizzed past its head and splattered itself on a column with a sickening crunch.

“That’s it!” cried the U.S. “That was way too close. I have had enough of these rats! Hey Pakistan!”

“What?” responded Pakistan.

“Do you like cookies?”

“I love cookies!” replied Pakistan

“Well, there’s a giant plate of them right behind you!”

“Really??” asked a thoroughly excited Pakistan as it turned around to get a look at the aforementioned cookies.

Taking advantage of the fact that its attention was focused elsewhere, the United States quickly and quietly reached into Pakistan’s desk, grabbed the biggest, fattest rat, bashed its head in, rushed to the bathroom, and flushed it down the toilet.

“Hey, U.S. I didn’t see the cookies you told me… Wait a second!” yelled a very surprised and angry Pakistan as the U.S. sauntered out of the bathroom with a gigantic grin on its face. “You were just in my desk, weren’t you!?”

“Yep,” responded a very smug United States.

“What the hell, man!?” asked Pakistan angrily. “I didn’t give you permission to do that! You can’t just go in there unless I say you can!”

“The hell I can’t!” retorted the U.S. “The rats were using your desk to stage attacks against me, and you weren’t doing shit about it. I went in there and did your job for you.”

“I am so angry at you!” seethed Pakistan as it stood from its chair.

“And I couldn’t possibly care less,” replied the U.S.

Pakistan sat back down, but glared at the United States, practically foaming with rage. The U.S. took great pleasure in ignoring its fuming ally, and turned its attention back to the other countries in the meeting.

“Let’s back down to business,” said the U.S. “Does any state have a grievance that it wishes to see addressed?”

Every country in the meeting raised its hand.

“Let me rephrase that,” said the U.S., a little surprised at the response. “How many countries feel that their grievances need to be solved immediately?”

Every country raised its hand again.

“Fine. I see that we are not going to get anywhere like this. I’ll just have to pick one of you at random.”

The United States spun itself around several times until it was absolutely sure that it had no coherent sight left, stopped, and pointed an uneasy finger at Micronesia.

“Alright Micronesia” said the Unites States as the sky kept stubbornly spinning around its head. “What are your grievances?”

“Too much rain.”

“Are you kidding me? That’s not a real grievance. Sit back down and let me know when you’re ready with one. Would anyone else like to go next?”

Great Britain raised its hand.

“What grieves you Great Britain?”

“I find an acute profusion of precipitation to be an aggravating persistence and constant hindrance to my sovereignty.”

The United States pulled out a pocket dictionary and quickly thumbed through it.

“You just said exactly what Micronesia did. Give me a real problem.”

“And how should I do that?”

“Try brainstorming. I find Venn diagrams to be helpful. Now, does any country have a real problem that it would like to have solved that does not include the weather?”

Denmark raised it hand.

“Yes Denmark?” asked the U.S.

“We should really do something about all of the smoke in this room. Nearly all of the countries in here smoke their cigars with no thought to what their actions are doing to our health. They are polluting the very air we breathe. This is bound to be a severe detriment to our well-being in the near future.”

“I don’t know what you mean, and I don’t see any problem with the smoke in the room,” said the U.S. as it lit up a gigantic cigar and took a puff.

“Agreed!” yelled China, Russia, India, Japan, and Germany together as they sucked on their own respective cigars.

“Well, I agree with Denmark,” said Sweden. “All of this smoke is detrimental to our health. It is simply not sustainable. We will reap what we sow, and if we do not take steps to mitigate this problem now, then we will all pay for it later. Everyone needs to cut back significantly on their smoking.”

A rumble of disagreement spread throughout the room.

“Listen, Sweden,” said the U.S. it took another puff and an enormous cloud of smoke traveled out of its mouth. “I can quit smoking whenever I like.”

“Sure you can,” replied Sweden.

“However,” continued the U.S. “I am not willing to make that sort of sacrifice unless countries like China and India cut back as well.”

“Well I for one see no reason for why I should cut back,” said China as it lit another cigar and added it to the seven others it was holding between its fingers.

“Oh come one, China!” said the U.S. “For the love of God, you’re smoking eight different cigars, all at the same time! I mean, who does that?”

“Don’t you preach to me!” exclaimed China. “You and the other Western countries have been smoking for over a century. I have only recently become affluent enough to buy my own cigars, and I plan on enjoying them!”

“Here here!” shouted India as it lit its fifth cigar. “Do not expect China and me to cut back on our smoking just as we take it up.”

“Well, sorry Denmark,” said the United States. “But I will not stop smoking unless China and India do the same.”

“But don’t you see what this is doing to the rest of us?” cried Denmark. “Your selfish actions are going to cause major problems for the rest of the world.”

“Yeah, don’t care,” replied the U.S. “Any other country have a problem it would like to have addressed?”

A tussle broke out between North and South Korea that soon threatened to turn violent.

“Now stop that,” said the U.S. sternly. “Don’t make me separate you two again.”

North and South Korea reluctantly sat back down, but continued to glare at each other from their seats.

Taiwan timidly raised its hand.

“What’s bothering you Taiwan?” asked the U.S.

“China keeps trying to annex me.”

“Yeah, well that’s because I’m stronger than you,” responded China.

The vast majority of the nations nodded in assent to China’s strong sense of rhetoric.

“China does have a point there,” said the United States.

“Well then, how do I protect myself?”

“I suggest you rip the land away from its original inhabitants and then exploit it to wage countless number of pointless wars against your weaker neighbors.”

“But I don’t have very many original inhabitants.”

“Then try exploiting class divisions.”

“Or religious ones,” put in Israel. “Try setting a whole bunch of barriers. You know, pointless methods of oppression.”

“Physical barriers work best,” added East Germany.

“I know, right!” agreed Israel.

“What the hell?” asked a thoroughly surprised United States. “What is East Germany doing at this meeting?”

“Whatever I damn well please,” retorted East Germany. “The Soviet Union and I came together. But regardless, who are you to tell me that I can’t be here?”

“I’m the United States of America. And you don’t exist. And the Soviet Union doesn’t either.”

“Yes they do exist!” interjected Venezuela. “They are alive and well! They live in my heart and in my soul. They speak to me, telling me of the capitalist lies perpetrated by the Great Satan that is the United States.”

“Amen!” shouted Bolivia.

“They are the great protectors of the people! The workers, the revolutionaries, the masses of lost, impoverished souls!”

“Hallelujah!” cried Bolivia.

“And they live through us! The Soviet Union and East Germany speak through us and imbue us with their wisdom!”