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Sunday, 18 January 2004

Residents of Washington State and, indeed, their fellow Americans across the land, were hit with a double whammy yesterday. In the first blow, Washington State legislators stunned the nation by voting to change the name of the Evergreen State.

"Once and for all, this bold step will put an end to the tiresome confusion created by having two Washingtons in one and the same country," a beaming governor declared in Olympia. "We are looking forward to tremendous economic spin-offs, particularly in the tourism sector."

Asked to elaborate, the governor claimed that Asian tourists yearning to experience unspoiled nature often end up trotting down the streets of Washington D.C. by mistake. "In all due respect to the significance and grandeur of the Lincoln Memorial and other historical sites in the nation's capital, they are no match for what the Pacific Northwest has to offer," he added. "Our state is a veritable treasure chest of nature's wonders, from the moss-covered cedars of Olympic National Park to the snow-covered cone of Mt. St. Helens, and of course the Seattle Space Needle."

There was a slightly awkward hesitation when a reporter questioned the inclusion of the Space Needle in the list, but the governor soon recovered. "Well, you know what I'm really saying, urr, is, urr, that the Seattle landmark is even taller than the tallest cedars, but then the cedars are probably older… although I would have to have my staff check into that. It could be the other way round. I know for a fact that we built the Space Needle some time last century, but I don't have precise and current data on exactly when we planted the cedars. I wasn't in office at the time."

According to the governor, the name change will also make it easier for students throughout the country to pass their geography tests. "Taking into consideration the nation-wide decline in educational standards, I for one will do everything in my power to ease the brain strain experienced by the dimmer half of the student population. Some of these kids have trouble remembering the name of the president just because it changes every eight years or so. How can we expect them to cope with the complexity of a Washington here and another one at the far end of the country?" he asked.

There is, in fact, independent evidence that the duplication of the name is causing befuddlement in juvenile heads. In a recent poll, 843 high school graduates were asked to explain the difference between Washington State, Washington D.C., and George. Poll results showed seventeen per cent passing with flying colors. The remaining ninety-two per cent [sic] were said to have flunked at least one of the questions. Several students identified George Washington as the inventor of the peanut, and an even one-hundred of them guessed that Washington DC had to be an up and coming rock group. Sixteen boys from Waco felt that Washington State was a mental illness which causes patients to believe that they are either a city, a state, or the inventor of the peanut.

North of the border, British Columbia government officials shook their heads in disbelief upon hearing of the planned name change. "There has never been any confusion in our minds about the location of Washington," they stated proudly. "Everybody knows it's that stamp-sized thingy dangling off our province." When an American reporter asked them to pick their favorite Washington (state, city, or George), they were baffled. "Are you implying there is more than one?" they asked. "Don't be ridiculous! And furthermore, we know of only two Americans called George. Their last name is Bush."

Meanwhile, back in Olympia, reporters were hunting high and low for any hint of support from Joe Public. So far only one elderly woman, who identified herself as a friend of Joe's, came out in favor of the name change. "I mean yah," she volunteered, "I don't see why they named this great state of ours after a city, especially one from the wrong side of the Rockies." She had no idea what the new name would be, she added, before excusing herself. "Excuse me," she said.

If the announcement of the intended name change was the first blow, the knock-out punch followed less than fifteen minutes later. This time the governor announced he had been empowered to choose the new name by himself, and inspiration had already struck. "Henceforth," he intoned, "the state formerly known as Washington shall bear the name of Bushlandia."

A minute of stunned silence ensued before reporters regained their speech. How could a life-long Democrat name his own state after at least two living Republican presidents? they demanded to know. "Your question is based on a misunderstanding," the governor countered. "This has nothing to do with a president or two. Bushlandia will remind potential tourists that this is the place to go for anyone wishing to experience nature at her finest, at her rawest, at her bushiest best."

Not long thereafter, President George Bush, in a speech entitled Nothing but the Truth About Weapons of Mass Destruction and All That Other Stuff, assured his audience that he had not been consulted on the name change. He also made passing reference to a new White House initiative whereby Bushlandia would be supplied with free Iraqui oil for the remainder of the century. The timing of the two events, he insisted, was pure coincidence.

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The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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