Allow us a moment to reflect upon our broken culture and praise the glorious days of yore – the days of righteous morality, of a productive and contributory collective ethos, and of… duelling. Stupid friggin’ duelling.
Of all the ridiculous traditions that we hauled on our societal backs from the grubby landscape of the Middle Ages, duelling has to be among the most laughable. Honor and respect marked the blinding colors of the duelling flag, and men chose to end one another’s lives rather than take the more accepted modern approach of simply living in a perpetual state of passive-aggressive loathing.
When gloves would slap faces in 19th century St. Louis, the moment of stone-chinned confrontation would usually take place on a small divot of land in the middle of the Mississippi River called Bloody Island. This sandbar had crept above the water’s surface in 1798, and throughout that renegade century, Bloody Island was a lawless haven for antiquated honor defense.
Authorities agreed to look the other way when duels were to be fought on this crunchy piece of turf midway between Missouri and Illinois. Firing at pistols at one another in either state was illegal, but on Bloody Island nobody cared. It was all about nobility, about virtue, about manhood… and whatever.
Thomas Hart Benton (also called “Old Bullion”, probably because he was a big fan of chicken soup cubes) was a Missouri Senator who pushed strongly for western expansion of the United States. He also pushed a little too hard upon the feelings of one Charles Lucas while they were battling over a land deal in court, back when Benton was an attorney. The two exchanged rather public words, which culminated when Benton had the audacity to call Lucas a “puppy.”
A puppy. More vile words were never spoken. Read more…
In the wild, the act of exposing one’s hindquarters to another of one’s species is generally looked upon as an act of sexual submission, an invitation to taxi down the ol’ carnal runway, cross-check for predators in the bushes, then take flight in a wild spree of jungle-humping like the savage beasts who dwell within. Among humans, the message is usually quite different, depending on the loose dress code and/or cultural taboos at your local watering hole. To expose your back door is an act of malice, of insult. Putting aside the obvious scatological implications, merely the investment of time and effort makes this a grander gesture than flipping someone the finger.
This is mooning. This is the big time.
It’s not something I’ve done very often, of course. I could chalk it up to modesty, or even a firm grasp on proper decorum and a penchant for societal politeness. But the truth is, I simply don’t trust my balance. I’m liable to unzip, yank down, and find myself face-first in a pile of my own self-ridicule.
Flashing a vicious heap o’ cheek at one’s enemies as a degrading insult dates back long before official recorded history on the matter. And there is such a history; at some point, some historical linguist put in the effort to research all known written and uttered instances of butt-flashery, though they didn’t come up with much. An examination of the early English language shows that the concept of exposing something to moonlight went by the name ‘mooning’ as far back as 1601. The idea of a moon acting as a shape-metaphor for one’s posterior appears as early as 1753. Read more…