IF NOTHING else, the interminable U.S. presidential election of 2000 yielded inspirational fodder for humorists everywhere, and not just those fortunate enough to host late-night talk shows or write syndicated newspaper columns. To date, some of the funniest jabs at America's electoral follies have come not from the likes of Dave Letterman and Dave Barry, but from ordinary folks creatively venting their frustration via that quintessentially populist medium known as the Internet.
Thanks to email, blogs and message boards, homespun humorists can now command ad hoc audiences numbering in the millions. If, as they say, laughter is the best medicine, then this is a wholesome cultural development. Comedy is too important to be left to the professionals.
Notice of Revocation of Independence
One of the cleverest bits to flood the email circuit in November 2000 was the "Notice of Revocation of Independence," a sarcastic proclamation reasserting Great Britain's sovereignty over the U.S. due to the latter's evident inability to govern itself (full text). Among the "new rules" it says Americans must adhere to are:
• Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as the good guys.
• You should declare war on Quebec and France, using nuclear weapons if they give you any merde.
• July 4th is no longer a public holiday. November 8th will be a new national holiday, but only in England. It will be called "Indecisive Day."
As is typical of folk humor, there are numerous versions of the text in circulation comprising the work of more than one anonymous author (not to mention at least two anonymous responses on behalf of America). Although it is rare for such texts to be traceable to a single point of origin, we are blessed to have a fairly precise outline of the genesis of this one thanks to Sarah Hartwell, an amateur folklorist from Chelmsford, England.
Variants and history
We offer, first, a tour of the several known variants of the "Revocation of Independence," concluding with Ms. Hartwell's commentary:
2. Notice of Revocation of Independence: 4-Point Version (Earliest)
3. Notice of Revocation of Independence: 10-Point Version
4. Notice of Revocation of Independence: 13-Point Version
5. Notice of Revocation of Independence: 15-Point Version (Most Common)
6. Response from America (#1)
7. Response from America (#2)
8. John Cleese Letter to America (Dec. 2004)
9. Commentary by Sarah Hartwell