A Century of Raccoon Life: March Forth, Mighty Little Beast!
Witnesses who were present at that little speakeasy in Bismark, North Dakota, swear that when Toots Mondello and Herman Hildebrand founded the International Order of Friendly Sons of the Raccoons on March 4, 1907, neither of them were consciously aware of the significance of the date. For March 4th is the only date of the year that is also a command, a duty, and a rallying cry that encompasses the Coon credo: March Forth into the vertical with noble tails entwined, ye mighty little beasts! Woooooo!
Of course, at first, the yearly cooniversary of our founding was mainly an occasion to hoist a few (and if the stories about brothers Herman and Toots are more than apocryphal, "stagger forth" was perhaps more accurate than "march forth"). This is why tonight at "beer o'clock," all dues-paying adult Coons everywhere in the world will raise the spirit of their choice (the "shot glazarus ceremony") and repeat the sacred mantra, "Fingers to fingers, thumbs to thumbs, watch out below, here she comes."
But subsequent generations of slightly less libationary Coons came to appreciate the bi-cosmic synchronicity of the date, especially after bylaw, sec. 2 was changed to require a public school diploma for membership. Before that, none of the members had heard of the word "synchronicity."
"Where have we been? Where are we going?" These are not just idle questions that Toots posed in the early morning hours of March 5, 1907. Think of how much things have changed in just 100 years. Today he would have mumbled those questions in the back of a squad car instead of a paddy wagon. He would have been fined and given community service instead of released into the custody of a none-too-pleased Gladys waving that formidable rolling pin. Wasn't that punishment enough? Have we become a crueler society? Or was the greater cruelty being married to Gladys? That was certainly Toots' view.
When we prophylactically reflect upon a century of Coondom, perhaps we first notice the things that have changed, including more liberal divorce laws that perhaps might have given Toots a chance at coonjugal fulfillment. Perhaps not, for whereas Herman was the more coontemplative "much loved disciple," Toots was always the more headstrong, fire-breathing Ovangelist. Both temperaments were required to accomplish the mission, for the "church of Herman" and the "church of Toots" are ultimately one.
And since "Raccoon nature" is eternal and unchanging, it is equally striking that the nature of the anti-Coon adversary is also unchanging. For example, the headline of the March 4, 1907 New York Times reads,
SAY CZAR'S DOOM IS NEAR AT HAND
Peasant Leaders Tell Meeting a Great Revolution Is Impending
NO FAITH IN THE CROWN
Mass Meeting to Aid Russian Freedom to be Held To-night
"Alexis Aladin, formerly leader of the Peasant Party in the Russian Duma, and N. W. Tchaykovsky, 'Father of the Russian Revolution,' talked of impending revolution in Russia before the Ethical Culture Society in Carnegie Hall yesterday morning. Mr. Tchaykovsky said that the Russian autocracy is 'dancing over the crater of a volcano,' and that even now it is too late to avoid violence and bloodshed. 'A reign of terror had begun in Russia,' he said, and the responsibility for it all rests justly on the Russian Government....
"It was announced that a mass meeting would be held in Carnegie Hall to-night to arouse sympathy and interest for the people of Russia in their struggle for liberty.... The meeting will be under the auspices of the Society of the Friends of Russian Freedom.... To-night's meeting is to be essentially a meeting to express indignation and encourage the fight for Russian freedom and not a meeting to raise funds."
Same old New York Times. Same upside-down moral compass. Same uncritical sympathy for the enemies of mankind. Same New York sophisticates congratulating themselves on their enlightened morality. Same blaming of the victim and siding with the aggressor. Same alliance with America's enemies. Same confusion of terrorists with freedom fighters. What else is new?
But today, of all days, is not a day for looking back with bitterness. Rather, it is a day for Marching Forth with.... with unbitterness, which I believe was one of the rejected early mottos -- not because we don't believe it, but because nothing rhymes with "unbitterness." The closest thing was "critterness," which some of our southern brothers favored, but gave the fight song too regional a vernacular. In a compromise, the final version of our marching song became,
In the West and in the East
There’s a mighty little beast
For courage there is no other.
When the chips are all at stake
We are proud to call him brother.
So with our noble tails entwined
And a spirit strong of mind
We'll have hearts that cannot melt.
In the forest, in the trees
On the land or seven seas
We're brothers under the pelt
It was felt that there was no need to specifically commemorate our founding by referencing "marching forth" in the marching song, since, after all, it is a "marching song," and no one marches backwards except for progressives. "March forth." It's what we do -- in word and in deed -- but always with "tails entwined."
Obviously, in his wildest beer-fueled Coon-vision reveries, Toots could not have foreseen the technological wonders of the present age, in which Coons from all over the world could coongregate and entwine their tails in cyberspace, of all things. I just checked out my site meter, and it shows me that at this moment (6:03AM) there are Coons (or possibly anti-Coons.... gee, I hope not, but I suppose it's inevitable) in ten different countries besides the U.S. including the UK, Germany ("das Kulturcoons"), Canada ("Coonucks"), Australia ("Koongaroos"), Singapore (hmm, anti-Coon?), Pakistan (hello, Osama! Your ass is ours), Netherlands ("Vikoons"), Korea ("Coonfucians"), Spain ("Coonaradas"), and "Unknown Country (probably just some other place outside the U.S. such as Manhattan or Berkeley).
When you think about it, this is remarkable, since my book has not yet been translated into most of these languages. My publisher has informed me that, in order for that to happen, they want me to first translate it into english. They've always been very supportive like that.
Yesterday we were discussing the question of whether Paul chose God or was chosen by Him, and I think we all agreed that the latter was the case. Even if he had wanted to, Paul could never have chosen, much less designed and implemented, his mission. Most people who "want" to become prophets or gurus or spiritual teachers are driven by impure motives, since it is always out of one's hands anyway. These gifts are graces from heaven, not self-willed, and God generally chooses unlikely vehicles just to emphasize the centrality of grace (although it is certainly necessary to align our will with the grace, which is where free will does come into play).
It was the same coonundrum with Toots and Herman. Did they "choose" Coonhood? Or were they merely instruments of higher forces? Knowing what we know about the early lives of Toots and Herman, I don't think anyone could make a case for the former. Coon lore euphemistically refers to the "boyish peccadilloes" and "legal entanglements" of their youth, but for one thing, since when is a 35 year old man a youth, and since when is a state penitentiary a "reform school?"
Please, I do not stand here today in judgment of the character of our founders, which speaks for itself, at least since those "lost" documents were discovered through the Freedom of Information Act. No, I think we have to be honest with ourselves, and realize that none of us deserves to be called "Coon" -- although we must never stop trying to earn the title, and we must always pay the $2 monthly dues through Petey's Sad Little Tin Cup.
For as Toots whispered in his dying breath before sloughing off the pelt, "Why do you call me Coon? There is no Coon but the Grand High Exhalted Mystic Ruler."
And Petey's term isn't up until sunset on March 4, 2010, when we name our new Exalted Ruler during the grand mystic ceremony of the Nocturnal O-mission.
Words to reflect upon and coontemplate on this sacred day:
March forth and go vertical, young Coon!
From the hallowed streets of Greenpernt,
To the shores of Sheepshead Bay,
From the Verrazano Narrows,
To Canarsie across the way...
We have come together, one and all,
In fellowship to commune,
And to glorify the Grand Exalted
Brotherhood of Raccoons.