#2. Teddy Bears
You have to be a hooligan with the heart of cold-blooded reptile to not have a soft spot for a well-worn teddy bear. It's a toy as American as apple pie and latent racism, and we can picture our great-grandma's great-grandma as a toddler, clutching her bear as they crossed the country in a Conestoga wagon. And before that, every part of the world that has bears probably had little stuffed ones they carried around for centuries. Bears are awesome, and they didn't become that way overnight.
It took a beary long time.
Teddy Bears Weren't Actually Around Until ...
1902. So no matter how raggedy your teddy bear looks, it can't possibly be more than 108 years old. To put that in perspective, this iconic emblem of Americana is more modern than the light bulb, the discovery of X-rays and toilet paper on a roll.
In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt was invited on a hunting trip by the governor of Mississippi. Everyone in the hunting party bagged some sort of game for the wife, but at the end of the day poor Teddy was dead animal-less. Not wanting to offend their honored guest, the Mississippi hunting party did what any self-respecting 20th-century hunting party would do: They clubbed a baby bear and tethered it to a tree for the President of the United States to shoot.
And Teddy Roosevelt, the perfect gentlemen that he was, refused to shoot because it was unsportsmanlike (but ordered his entourage to shoot the bear to put it out of its misery).
The story of Roosevelt's act of pity spread like wildfire, especially after a cartoonist illustrated the episode in a political cartoon that was published in The Washington Post, then reprinted across the country.
Is anyone else seeing Mickey Mouse on a leash?
The cutesy cartoon inspired Brooklyn stationery store owner Morris Michtom to create "Teddy's Bear," which he displayed in his store window. And that was when things really went nuts for the stuffed bear industry. Teddy bears became the Cabbage Patch Dolls of the early 20th century. By 1906, people were singing songs about teddy bear picnics, and Roosevelt himself used the bear as his mascot in his successful re-election bid.
Of all the entries on this list, this is by far the one we found hardest to wrap our minds around.
There probably isn't a single person reading this who hasn't run across a nationalist at some point. Not a patriot -- a nationalist. People who turn the love of their country into a goddamned religion and believe that their nation and its flag stand as an island of righteousness in a black ocean of evil foreigners.
But haven't those guys -- the equivalent of the "American flag painted onto a pickup truck" tribe we have now -- been around since ... well, forever?
Nationalism Wasn't Really Around Until ...
Up until that point, the zealous types were all about loyalty to their ethnic group, or a leader, or their religion, their city-state or their clan/tribe. Not their country, because countries as we understand them today didn't exist.
Tea parties back then were far less obnoxious.
It's hard to grasp how different the world was then. Most nations of the time were really just a collection of ethnic enclaves, usually speaking multiple languages within the country, sometimes united under one leader, often not. But thinking of themselves as "Russian" or "French" just wasn't a big part of their personality.
"I didn't know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective."
Let's pick on another example besides America. How about France? After all, they're famous for being fiercely French -- the snobby, tourist-hating Frenchman is still a stereotype in the USA, and we fully expect them to hate us if we don't speak perfect French when we travel there. Now consider this: In 1789 only 50 percent of the people in France actually spoke French, and only 12 to 13 percent of those folks spoke it "fairly well."
And the same was true in other countries across Europe; people just didn't see themselves as citizens of a particular nation. Which is why the national anthem of the UK, for example, is "God Save the Queen." Not "God Save Our Kick-ass Country."
It wasn't until the Enlightenment-inspired Founding Fathers of the U.S. and their French cousins got it into their heads that states should be governed by the people, that the people actually got boners for the state. Which is probably the best description of nationalism anyone's ever going to come up with: state boners.
His state boner was THIS BIG.
You can find more from Eric Yosomono over at GaijinAss.
Now make sure you learn about "modern" ideas that were here before us, in 11 Modern Technologies That Are Way Older Than You Think and 6 Depraved Sexual Fetishes That Are Older Than You Think.
And stop by Linkstorm to find out when POGs were actually invented.
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