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Did America really lose its innocence after 9-11?



Apparently so. According to countless members of the media, America did indeed lose its innocence last September. And if the media says so, it must be true.

But that's only half the story. What pundits and commentators are leaving out is that 9-11 not only precipitated a loss of innocence, it prompted a loss of memory. History shows that all losses of collective innocence are accompanied by a loss of collective memory. When we lose our innocence, we also lose all recollection of every previous instance of losing our innocence.

An examination of American history shows that this nation loses its innocence so often it makes the last 226 years seem like one long prom night.

Below is an abridged history of our innocence and its repeated loss. Cut this page out, stick it to your fridge and refer back to it often. Next time someone tells you that you've lost your innocence, you'll have printed proof that your cherry was harvested long ago.

Early 18th century. Our obsession with the collective cherry begins when Augustine "Boom-Boom" Washington, father of the father of our country, gives George a hatchet. When Boom-Boom noticed cuts on a nearby cherry tree, he asked George, who immediately 'fessed up, saying, "I cannot tell a lie. I did it with my hatchet." Though Dad was somewhat disappointed that his kid was a goody two-shoes kiss-ass, our cherry was saved and George's reputation as an honest man was sealed.

1789. The Constitution is ratified, leaving out freedom for slaves and suffrage for women. Adding insult to injury, the document defined some blacks as three-fifths of a person. Doh!

1804. Former Vice President Aaron Burr murders former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander "Dude on the 10-Dollar Bill" Hamilton. The next time you hear someone moaning about how bitter, cynical and uncivilized politics has become, just remember that Al Gore hasn't murdered Colin Powell.

19th century. Ignoring our own ideals of justice, freedom, private property and general decency, we slaughter Native Americans en masse and herd the survivors onto reservations. As a result, the word "Indian" is seldom heard without being followed immediately by the word "casino." Kevin Costner attempts to make amends in 1990 with Dances With Wolves, but is unsuccessful.

1861-1865. Southern leaders are too lazy to pick their own cotton and too cheap to pay people to do it, so they fight against the North to keep their slaves. Hello, Civil War. North vs. South, brother vs. brother (fortunately for them, women weren't yet allowed in combat). Nearly 600,000 people die in perhaps our single biggest loss of innocence. Nice.

1922. Interior Secretary Albert Fall goes to jail for accepting money in exchange for allowing a private oil company to secretly take oil from the U.S. Navy's reserve at Teapot Dome, Wyo. We have since regained our innocence and avoided any need for further bribery simply by electing two oil executives to be our president and vice president.

1989. Don Henley releases the hit album The End of the Innocence.

1998. Seduced by an intern's butt-cleavage and thong underwear, Bill Clinton takes his best shot at trashing our innocence once and for all via the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Preoccupied with our unprecendented prosperity and less trusting of Republicans than Clinton, we concede that our innocence is damaged, but not entirely destroyed. The scandal did, however, warm up the nation for the 2000 smash, "Thong Song."

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