Friday, January 7, 2011

Congressional Comedy

So let’s see… We’ve got poverty, crime, terrorism, biohazards, hunger, and a few other things nobody has a handle on, so what we should do is… yes, you’ve got it, read the US Constitution out loud!!!  How come no one thought of this before?

You may have missed this giant step sideways in American politics. The incoming Republicans who recently descended upon Capitol Hill thought it might be an interesting gimmick, because what could be more patriotic—and reassuring to the electorate—than aligning themselves with the country’s most famous document? So read they did.

Incoming Speaker John A. Boehner launched the initiative with, “We the people of the United States…” and was followed by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi who, apparently overcome by the momentousness of the event, tripped as she walked to the dais. She read Article 1, Section 1, which enabled the creation of Congress. One after another, Congressmen read their passages. Time passed slowly, and soon the people’s elected servants began yawning, fidgeting, playing with their Blackberries and looking at the clock because, let's face it, reading the Constitution is not like reading James Lee Burke’s latest novel. It is indescribably boooooring.

The fun started when it was discovered that the politicians weren’t reading the full document. The section dealing with slavery (and endorsing it), was left out because it lacked political correctness. This led Representative James E. Clyburn the ranking Black member of the House, to refuse to participate in reciting what he called “revisionist history.” Other notables objected to the lapse as well, including Hilary Shelton, a senior vice president with the NAACP. Republicans reasoned that since slavery had been overturned by the 13th Amendment, why bother with the original—and no longer applicable—constitutional passages?

In fact, what happened on the Hill is somewhat remindful of many earlier attempts to ban works deemed inappropriate by authorities. Think Ulysses, Candide, Fanny Hill, Margaret Sanger’s 1915 Family Limitation dealing with contraception, Rousseau’s Confessions, banned by the US Customs in 1929 as “injurious to public morality.”  Think, Leaves of Grass and Origin of Species, Huckleberry Finn and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, both of which have been dropped from many high school reading curriculum.

What the Congressmen did was choose to change a document few had ever read in its entirety and certainly none was worthy of editing. They decided what was fit and right for public consumption, an incredible act of hubris.

I should add here that a section of the Constitution was omitted when one reader accidentally skipped a page.

This, in and of itself, does not bode well.   


No comments:

Post a Comment