America Needs You, Harry Truman

I told an old joke at dinner.

The story goes that shortly after the end of World War II, an American soldier and a Russian soldier were patrolling the demarcation line between two sectors in Berlin. Every day they would walk up and down, up and down separated by a line. Eventually the two got to talking. One day the Russian said the American, “I don't understand what is this 'freedom' business you Americans are always going on about. What use is 'freedom'?”

“I can explain,” replied the American soldier. “When I'm demobilized and go home, I can walk up to the gate of the White House and shout 'Truman is an IDIOT' — and no one will do anything to me. That's freedom.”

“Well,” the Russian replied, “if that is all there is to freedom, then we have freedom in the USSR too. When I go home, I can go up to the gates of the Kremlin and shout 'Truman is an idiot' and no one will do anything to me either”

“Is that still true?” a voice asked. Images flashed by: today's White House. Surrounded by barriers to keep the public at a distance. Anxious guards who hustle the President away any time a small plane takes a wrong turn. An administration that will do anything to insulate itself from criticism.

“Of course it's still true,” I reassured the children. “I can go right up to the White House today and shout 'Truman is an idiot' and no one will do anything to me, either.”

(Title inspired by Chicago VIII )

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5 Responses to America Needs You, Harry Truman

  1. innabar says:

    brilliant! thanks for a sort-of-an update to the “joke with a beard” (an expression in Russian for very old jokes).

  2. michael says:

    In my family it was always done silently, with a hand gesture by the knee: first palm down, then palm up, meaning “When I was this high [hand flip], that joke already had a beard that long.”

  3. Desert Donkey says:

    I loved it. My daily smile; provided by a lawyer no less.

  4. Paul Gowder says:

    Seeing as I live in the D.C. area… will y’all chip in for bail if I go to the white house and shout “Bush is an idiot” as an experiment?

  5. DaveL says:

    But Bush isn’t an idiot. He’s an aggressively ignorant, anti-intellectual asshole, but I’m guessing his intelligence is at least 85th percentile. Doesn’t trip so nicely off the tongue outside the White House gate, though. OTOH, you’re unlikely to get arrested for it, since he’d probably take it as a compliment.

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