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Finley Peter Dunne was famed both for his sportswriting, covering the Chicago White Sox, and for his humorous columns featuring the imaginary saloonkeeper, Mr. Dooley, who would spout his "wisdom" in a broken Irish brogue. Dunne had been writing these essays for nearly a decade when the Spanish-American War came and his (and Mr. Dooley's) criticism of it, as an imperialist enterprise, won him a national readership, plaudits from intellectuals, and friendship with folks like Mark Twain and, improbably, with arch-imperialist Teddy Roosevelt.
Wan iv the worst things about this here war is th' way it's makin' puzzles f'r our poor, tired heads. Whin I wint into it, I thought all I'd have to do was to set up here behind th' bar with a good tin-cint see-gar in me teeth, an' toss dinnymite bombs into th' hated city iv Havana. But look at me now. Th' war is still goin' on; an' ivry night, whin I'm countin' up the cash, I'm askin' mesilf will I annex Cubia or lave it to the Cubians? Will I take Porther Ricky or put it by? An' what shud I do with the Ph'lippeens? Oh, what shud I do with thim? I can't annex thim because I don't know where they ar-re. I can't let go iv thim because some wan else'll take thim if I do. They are eight thousan' iv thim islands, with a popylation iv wan hundherd millyon naked savages; an' me bedroom's crowded now with me an' th' bed. How can I take thim in, an' how on earth am I goin' to cover th' nakedness iv thim savages with me wan shoot iv clothes? An' yet 'twud break me heart to think iv givin' people I niver see or heerd tell iv back to other people I don't know. An', if I don't take thim, Schwartzmeister down th' sthreet, that has half me thrade already, will grab thim sure.There are some mild chuckles there and you get a sense of how the Mr. Dooley character enabled him to prick America's civilizing pretensions rather gently. On the other hand, Mr. Dooley seems right to wonder what we should have been doing in places like the Philippines and Cuba. The former seems to have benefitted significantly from our involvement, even if its people resented us, and the latter would certainly have fared better had we gotten reinvolved as recently as forty years ago. Yet, if you look at how ambivalent we all are about the prospects for democratizing the Middle East and about whether that's even a fit role for the U.S., you have to wonder if we can ever resolve the tension between our desire to "do good" and out fear of being morally tainted by our involvement with cultures so clearly "other". One's admiration for Mr. Dunne ends up being tempered by the knowledge that what he's making fun of something that's actually rather admirable in our national character, our uneasiness over our role as the world's crusader for peace and democracy.
-PHOTO: Finley Peter Dunne
Mr. Dooley on Imperialism: Satire by Finley Peter Dunne (Jim Zwick, BoondocksNet)
-ETEXT: On the Philippines By Finley Peter Dunne (from Mr. Dooley in Peace and in War)
-ETEXT: On Prayers for Victory By Finley Peter Dunne (from Mr. Dooley in Peace and in War)
-ETEXT: On the Anglo-Saxon By Finley Peter Dunne (from Mr. Dooley in Peace and in War)
-ETEXT: Observations by Mr. Dooley By Finley Peter Dunne (1902)
-Mr. Dooley: The Irish Club of Willimantic
-Mr. Dooley (Preston Neal Jones, Gale Encyclopedia of Popular Culture)
-ARCHIVES: "Finley Peter Dunne" (Find Articles)
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