A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from December 05, 2012
“War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography”

"War is God’s way of teaching us geography” was said by comedian Paul Rodriguez at Comic Relief in 1987. Rodriguez later added the Gulf War (started when Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990) to the comedy line: “Before the war in the Middle East, I didn’t know what the hell a Kuwait was. I thought it was a fruit from New Zealand.”

The belief that war teaches us (often given specifically as “Americans") geography dates to at least World War I. “The European war is teaching Americans geography” was cited in print in March 1915. The saying is often given as “God invented/created war so that Americans would learn geography.”

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1913), author of the satirical The Devil’s Dictionary (1911) is frequently given credit for the line, but it has not been found in any of his works.


Wikipedia: Paul Rodriguez
Paul Rodriguez (born January 19, 1955) is a Mexican-born American stand-up comedian and actor.

21 March 1915, Chicago (IL) Tribune, pg. A4:
If the European war is teaching Americans geography, it is also sprinkling our thought with picturesque dashes of European history and politics.

26 December 1915, Augusta (GA) Chronicle, “In the Religious World” by William T. Ellis, pg. 23, col. 1:
War is a schoolmaster with a rod, and he is teaching us geography lessons.

HathiTrust Digital Library
March 1917, The Review of Reviews, pg. 286, col. 1:
THE War is teaching us geography. We all know where to find Przemysl on the map, even if we shy at pronouncing it, and the mysteries of Kragujevatz and Kilimanjaro are not hid from us; but even the most learned may, we think, be excused if the name Moresnet strikes no responsive chord.

16 November 1987, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “Comic Relief: An HBO Tradition Comedians Weave Laughter Into Plea for Homeless at Amphitheatre” by Lawrence Christon, Calendar section, pg. 1:
Paul Rodriguez got up to say “War is God’s way of teaching us geography.”

Google Books
Comic Relief
Edited by Todd Gold
New York, NY: Avon Books
1996
Pg. ?:
Sometimes I think war is God’s way of teaching us geography. Before the war in the Middle East, I didn’t know what the hell a Kuwait was. I thought it was a fruit from New Zealand.
(Comedian Paul Rodriguez—ed.)

14 October 2001, Lexington (KY) Herald Leader, “Aiding Afghans a complicated, difficult task,” pg. H1:
If, as American writer Ambrose Bierce is said to have observed, “war is God’s way of teaching Americans geography,” Sept. 11 represents a wake-up call.

Google Books
The Quote Verifier:
Who Said What, Where, and When

By Ralph Keyes
New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press
2006
Pg. 240:
“WAR is God’s way of teaching us geography.”
(...)
Rodriguez was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as having said at a 1987 Comic Relief event that “War is God’s way of teaching us geography.”
Verdict: Credit Paul Rodriguez, tentatively.

Google Books
God Laughs & Plays:
Churchless Sermons in Response to the Preachments of the Fundamentalist Right

By David James Duncan
Great Barrington, MA: Triad Books
2006
Pg. XVI:
When the non-Christian Ambrose Bierce, for instance, wrote, “War is the means by which Americans learn geography,” there was acid dripping almost visibly from his pen.

Google Books
Everything You Know About God Is Wrong:
The Disinformation Guide to Religion

By Russell Kick
New York, NY: Disinformation; London: Virgin [distributor]
2007
Pg. 84:
Blogger Shargi perhaps sums up the views of many when she says: “God invented war so that Americans can learn geography.”

The St. Petersburg Times (Russia)
LESSONS FOR BUSH IN THE AFGHAN WAR
By Alexei Bayer
Published: April 8, 2008 (Issue # 1363)
War, runs a Russian joke, is a means by which Americans learn geography. Funny — but also very much on target. Having discovered the location of Afghanistan and Iraq, President George W. Bush seems eager to learn more about Iran.

OpEdNews.com
My Plastic Penis
By David Glenn Cox
1/5/2010 at 10:19:19
(...)
“God created war so that Americans would learn geography.”
(Mark Twain)

Google Books
Tweet This Book:
The 1,400 Greatest Quotes of All Time in 140 Characters Or Less

By Sayre Van Young and Marin Van Young
Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press: Distributed by Publishers Group West\2011
Pg. 160:
War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.
Ambrose Bierce

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Wednesday, December 05, 2012 • Permalink