Passport census

Used to be the passport was (or became, with travel) an album of other countries’ weird juxtaposed iconography. For now, though, we can get the same without leaving home.

I also admire the State Department’s evident desire to create an Album of America—a collection of snapshots that, over the course of the passport’s twenty-eight pages, catalogues the members of our national family. And I am impressed with the diversity the State Department has achieved. Aside from (i) the distant silhouettes of the passengers and crew of the Mississippi Steamer and the Yankee Clipper, (ii) a shadowy herd of cows, and (iii) the identification photograph of the passport holder, the new passport depicts American life in the following numbers:

 Geese: 13
 Male Humans: 11
 Longhorn Cattle: 8 or 9
 Bald Eagles: 6
 Horses: 3
 Totemic Spirits: 3
 Bison: 2
 Oxen: 2
 Seagulls: 1
 Grizzlies: 1
 Salmon: 1
 Female Humans: 1

Of the eleven men, nine are white. The other two are cowboys whose race is rendered indeterminate by their Stetson hats. The lone woman is the Statue of Liberty.

from “Open Letter to Senator Clinton,” by Rudolph Delson, n+1, 18 December 2008

Originally published at

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