unintended consequences
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Bert and Ernie and the Statues
by Martin Green




Two college seniors, Bert and Ernie, were sitting on the porch of their frat house. It was a warm evening and they’d both had several beers. “I’m bored,” said Bert.

“Me, too,” said Ernie. “Whatta you wanna do?”

“Dunno. Something fun.”

“I know. Let’s spray paint old Doc Ferguson’s statue.”

Doctor Thomas Fitzroy Ferguson was the college’s founder, somewhere back in the 1880’s. His statue was in a grassy area in the center of the campus, looking sternly over the college, Ferguson U, named after him.

Bert went inside and found the ever-handy can of spray paint used by the frat boys for various pranks. The two seniors walked to the campus center. No one was around. There was no sound except for crickets chirping. A thin moon peeked through some clouds. “There he is,” said Bert.

“Yeah,” said Ernie. “I never liked the way he looks, like he disapproves of everything. Let’s spray him.”    They did, with red paint, then on the statue’s base wrote “Ferguson’s a Fag.”

“Hey,” said Bert. “Do you think we can pull him down?”

“I dunno. We can try.   Let’s go back to the house and get some rope.”

In a few minutes they were back with a heavy rope, which they placed around the statue’s middle. They stepped back and tugged. To their surprise, maybe the statue had been weakened by the weather over time, there was a loud crack and then the statue was toppled. “Hey, we did it,” said Bert.

“Yeah,” said Ernie. “Wait until the guys see this. We’ll be famous.”

“Yeah, let’s get back.”

But they were two late. Perhaps alerted by the cracking noise two burly campus policemen had appeared.

“Look at that,” said one. “They pulled the old boy down.”

“You kids are in trouble,” said the other one. “Come with us.”


a line, (a short blue one)


They were in the Dean’s office. “Do you have anything to say for yourselves?” asked the Dean.

Bert looked at Ernie. Ernie looked back at Bert. “Er,” said Bert, remembering something he’d heard on television, “it was an act of social justice.”

“What?” said the Dean.

“Yes,” said Ernie. “It was a peaceful act of social justice. Doc Ferguson was a white man in a southern state. He probably had slaves.”

An investigation was launched. It found that Ferguson’s grandfather’s uncle’s cousin did indeed own a small plantation so it had to be assumed he had at least one slave. Bert and Ernie’s action was vindicated. They were on local television. The national networks picked them up. They were all over social media. They were hailed as heroes. College students all over the country started to topple statues of their college presidents and any other historical personage they took a dislike to. College administrators did nothing to stop it for fear they’d be labeled small-minded. The movement spread beyond college campuses. Statue toppling became a national pastime. Politicians did nothing to stop it; most encouraged it to show how liberal they were. Pundits debated it. Violence escalated. It became an issue in the presidential election. The country was torn in two.

Bert and Ernie knew nothing of all this. They’d both failed all their tests and flunked out of college. Their indulgent parents had financed a tour of Europe. They didn’t bother to read newspapers or watch television news as they partied and pursued, unsuccessfully, European girls. When they returned to the States the official who checked their passports at the airport advised them to go to a hotel immediately and stay off the streets. “Why?” asked Bert.

“Yeah,” said Ernie. “What’s going on?”

“Don’t you know?’ said the official. “The party that lost the election didn’t accept the result. The country is in chaos.   There’s riots, looting. arson, killings everywhere. It’s total anarchy.”

“That’s terrible,” said Bert.

“Yeah.” said Ernie. “Gee, I wonder how all of that got started.”




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