In the classic Eddie Murphy film “Coming To America”, Eddie Murphy plays Prince Akeem of the fictional African nation of Zamunda, where he goes to New York to seek a wife. The movie is beloved today by many people, especially immigrants, since Prince Akeem’s strange experiences with Americans and American culture mirror the reflections of many who come to the US, seeking their fortune and finding a land filled with strange, bizarre, and crazy people. Of course, not all Americans are bad or crazy, but from the perspective of an immigrant from any country save potentially from the Anglosphere, America is a very strange place with a lot of equally strange people.
An examples of something comically strange took place in Iowa, where a Kansas man challenged his ex-wife and her attorney to a duel using Japanese combat swords so that he could “rend their souls from their corporeal bodies” according to reports:
A Kansas man has asked an Iowa court to grant his motion for trial by combat so he can meet his ex-wife and her attorney “on the field of battle where (he) will rend their souls from their corporal bodies.”
David Ostrom, 40, of Paola, Kansas, claims in court documents that his ex-wife, Bridgette Ostrom, 38, of Harlan, has “destroyed (him) legally.”
He asked the Iowa District Court in Shelby County to give him 12 weeks “lead time” in order to source or forge katana and wakizashi swords, as first reported by the Carroll Times Herald.
“To this day, trial by combat has never been explicitly banned or restricted as a right in these United States,” Ostrom argues in court records, adding that it was used “as recently as 1818 in British Court.”
When reached by phone Monday, Ostrom told the Des Moines Register that he got the idea after learning about a 2016 case in which New York Supreme Court Justice Philip Minardo acknowledged that duels had not been abolished.
Ostrom said the motion stemmed from his frustrations with his ex-wife’s attorney, Matthew Hudson of Harlan.
“I think I’ve met Mr. Hudson’s absurdity with my own absurdity,” he said.
Ostrom, who said he plans to request the same mediation tactic for any other disputes that may arise in court, added that his ex-wife can choose her attorney as a “champion,” or stand-in fighter.
Hudson filed a resistance to the trial by combat motion by first correcting Ostrom’s spelling.
“Surely (Ostrom) meant ‘corporeal’ bodies which Merriam Webster defines as having, consisting of, or relating to, a physical material body,” the attorney wrote. “Although (Ostrom) and potential combatant do have souls to be rended, they respectfully request that the court not order this done.”
Hudson argued that because a duel could end in death, such ramifications likely outweigh those of property tax and custody issues.
“It should be noted that just because the U.S. and Iowa constitutions do not specifically prohibit battling another person with a deadly katana sword, it does prohibit a court sitting in equity from ordering same,” Hudson wrote.
Hudson asked the court to suspend Ostrom’s visitation rights and order him to undergo a court-ordered psychological evaluation.
Ostrom later admitted to the misspelling, but argued he has no history of mental issues.
Historically, he said in court records, trial by combat was not always won by way of death, but also when a party “cries craven,” yielding to the other.
“Respondent and counsel have proven themselves to be cravens by refusing to answer the call to battle, thus they should lose this motion by default,” Ostrom wrote, adding that if the other party decided otherwise, he wants to proceed with a “blunted practice style” of sword play.
The court has not yet ruled on either party’s motions. Hudson was not immediately available for comment.
Ostrom, who said he doesn’t have any experience with sword fighting, doesn’t anticipate the judge will let his request go forward, but he wants an answer anyway.
When asked if he were serious about the dueling offer, Ostrom said, “If Mr. Hudson is willing to do it, I will meet him. I don’t think he has the guts to do it.” (source)
Coming to America was a very humorous film, but also a reality through the eyes of an immigrant.
While the film is fiction, truth is stranger than fiction, and stories such as this one above, while seemingly common in the US (for example, one only needs to look up “Florida man”), they are strange in the eyes of the rest of the world, and for an immigrant, give people to wonder, in awe, shock, amazement, and confusion, what a strange and interesting place the United States really is.