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I'm With Stupid: The Sudsy Bavarian Secret to Getting Along

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And just like that, years after most of us had forgotten about him, Rodney King is no more. He was found dead last week in the bottom of his swimming pool. As one of the top five or six most important people named King in the history of the civil-rights movement, Rodney deserves at least a brief mention on the occasion of his passing, so herewith I will repeat the simple yet profound statement that will serve as his legacy:

"Can we all get along?" (I realize I might be quoting that wrong. I don't have access to the Internet right now, so I can't double-check it. In any event, the gist of it is close enough.)

Wise words, indeed. Here, in the year 2012, we should all be able to get along, shouldn't we? And yet we seem to be getting along as poorly as we ever have. Admittedly, relations between the races are probably better than they were in, say, 1860, but the current divide between right and left, conservative and liberal, rich and poor is wider than at any other point in my lifetime.

I won't get into the reasons why that is -- although to this day I blame Karl Rove, Ann Coulter and Fox News -- but I will offer what I think would be a good step on the path to reconciliation.

You see, at the moment I'm in Bavaria, and while historically Germany has hardly been a paragon of friendly neighborliness, Bavaria is the ancestral home of beer gardens, and I dare say that if we had more beer gardens back home, we'd probably all get along much better.

Bear in mind that when I say "beer gardens," I mean the real thing, not the bastardized versions found at summer festivals and fairs in America. Those are not beer gardens. Those are small, miserable areas that have been fenced off to spare our youth from the hideous scourge of people enjoying themselves.

Real beer gardens, as I've learned since arriving in Munich, bring together people from all walks of life to sit at long tables, eat pretzels and quaff ale from steins the size of Delaware. Nobody cares if the person to their right doesn't speak German or if the person across the table is opposed to universal health care. As long as they like beer and can raise a glass and say "Prost!" they're all right.

The first beer garden I went to, far from trying to discourage the attendance of children, actually had a kids play area with trampolines, swings and a miniature train. Dogs were allowed there, too, which in my experience always makes for a more festive atmosphere, and if one wasn't in the mood for pretzels, the beer garden also offered ribs, fish, sausages and all kinds of other delicious foods.

Germans don't need a special occasion, such as some overhyped craft fair, to get together and drink like that, either. They do that sort of thing every night of the week. Just hanging out with fellow beer drinkers is reason enough to celebrate, and as I've gleaned by the ubiquity of beer gardens, evidently everyone in Germany -- including the two nuns I saw tipping back cold ones -- is a beer drinker.

Now, if there's one thing we can agree on in the U.S., it's that we like beer. Microbrews, macrobrews, light beers, dark beers. We might not be German in our adoration of all things sudsy, but we're damn close. Why don't we have beer gardens in our cities where people can meet and get pleasantly buzzed together?

Alas, I think we all know the answer to that, don't we? Because if we had beer gardens in America, some litigious, me-first jackass would get drunk, fall down, injure himself or herself and sue the beer garden for everything it had. And of course, given our imbecilic legal system, he or she would win, effectively putting the beer garden out of business.

The saddest part about such a scenario is the sheer inevitability of it. Naturally, that's exactly what would happen in America. That's just the way things are nowadays. So, in the meantime, until we get worthwhile tort reform back in the U.S., I'll enjoy my time here in a true Bavarian beer garden. I'll sit with people I have nothing in common with, hoist my massive stein and have a drink in honor of Rodney King, and I'll ponder his words and wonder why we Americans can't all get along.

Prost!

Four out of five Todd Hartleys recommend beer as a remedy -- or cause -- for jackassedness. To read more or leave a comment, please visit zerobudget.net.