For months, I would awaken early in the morning in a deep, cold sweat. There were few who could possibly understand the deep seated turmoil, the confusion, dismay and shock that I would experience in my first few days in Ukraine. It was difficult even to face myself in the mirror. My world view of American Supremacy was shattered. It didn’t come from my sixteen months in Iraq or at the hands of the FSB, or even the SBU. Nay, it would come from the mouth of one of first people I met in Ukraine.
Upon learning that I was from the United States, her first words were… Difficult as it is to recall them, I am bound by honor, by truth. She did not go on about how the United States was the last super power, make any comment about Bush – leader of the free world or even lay into him as leader of the coalition of twisted arms. No comment about Hollywood, or how the United States is best at everything. No… none of that.
“You come from the bean country.” My jaw dropped and I started to say something, but… I could not believe what I just heard. All I could muster was, “Uh…. What?”
“Everyone eats beans in America.”
How do you even respond to that? “Well, we do eat beans in America, but beans aren’t exactly the only thing we eat.”
“No, but you eat a lot of em…”
The psychological trauma was more than I could bear. Beans. Beans? Where the hell did that come from? So, it would be that I pondered that question for many months.
Time passed and with it, I was able to lead a mostly normal life.
Then, one day, I found it in the course of doing research for a project involving the Lend Lease Act of the United States in World War II. A statistic jumped off my screen and smacked me across the forehead with such force that it sent me sprawling against the opposite wall.
Along with a shotgun, 400 tubes of lipstick, and a dozen pair of pantyhose, there it was…
Beans, dry, ripe – 492,521,079 lbs.
Now THAT’s a Freakin’ Shitload of Beans. At last, I understood. America’s legacy from World War II as would be counted from one Russian (and Ukrainian) generation to the next amounted to beans. Studebakers and beans, but mostly beans.
To appreciate exactly how many beans that is, requires a little bit of math and a few things you probably didn’t know. There are about 3,500 beans per pound. If you laid a pound of beans from end to end, averaging about a centimeter each, that would stretch 33.5 meters. The United States gave the Soviet Union enough beans to stretch 1,649,9453 kilometers. That’s more than enough beans for two round trip tickets to the Moon.
We’re talking green beans, black beans, lima beans, garbanzo beans, chili beans, kidney beans, baked beans, baked beans with molasses, baked beans with molasses and bacon, hamhocks and beans, hamhocks and beans with cornbread, eggs and beans, steak and beans, taters and beans, bean soup, bean salad, seven layered bean salad… and then after you’ve eaten all the freakin’ beans you can possibly tolerate, you still have enough to make furniture.
Beans, beans, beans. We didn’t get credit for the hundreds of thousands of trucks or the trains, for the airplanes or the telephone wire, for the lip stick, or anything else. Our monumental Lend Lease Program amounted to a hill of beans. But, there’s more symbolism to the bean than meets the eye.
We must all remember General Anthony Clement McAuliffe’s response to the German ultimatum to surrender the 101st Airborne Division, defending Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. “Beans!” Some historians mistranslated this as “Nuts!”
History has a way of repeating itself. One can imagine that at some point in the future, it will be America seeking help from the clutches of Tyranny and Fascist Stormtroopers, or maybe just the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration. These are the days where American law enforcement goes into a frenzy every time they see an unattended brown paper sack. Now, it could be a bomb… but it could also be someone’s discarded bologna sandwich – which they could not carry on the train or the plane, because… it could be bomb.
Then again… it could be a bag of beans.
Like… Magic Beans!