'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
‘WE THE PEOPLE’ NEED A NEW MATTRESS SALE
September 17th was Constitution Day, a holiday that almost no one knows about. The reason so few people are aware of this special day is because no one gets a day off from work or school, and no stores have spectacular blow-out Constitution Day mattress sales. In the immortal words of President Woodrow Wilson, “If there are no mattress sales, can it really be a holiday?” (OK, maybe it wasn’t Woodrow Wilson. Maybe it was Jimmy Carter.)
Exactly 218 years ago, our nation’s founding fathers gathered in Philadelphia (our nation’s founding mothers decided to stay home) and signed the document which is the basis for our laws and the structure of our government. James Madison was the man most responsible for shaping the Constitution. On that day he declared, “Its shape ought to be rectangular!” He also said, looking toward future generations, “Only a well-instructed people can be a permanently free people.”
Over two centuries later, we must ask ourselves many questions: Are we still a well-instructed people? Do we know anything about the Constitution? If not, is our freedom in jeopardy? And finally, where can we buy low, low-priced mattresses?
A recent survey of American teenagers found that almost 60-percent can name the Three Stooges (Moe, Larry, and Curly), while barely 40-percent can name the three branches of government (Moe, Larry, and Shemp).
To determine whether the level of constitutional awareness in America is really that poor, I conducted a scientific survey of my own. I can confidently say, using the jargon of scientific survey firms, that my results have a “margin of error of plus-or-minus 100-percent.”
I asked a single question of randomly selected family members, co-workers, and neighborhood pets: “With what famous phrase does the U.S. Constitution begin?”
Here are the results: “What are you talking about?” “I dunno,” “Dad, leave me alone,” “Get back to work, Dunn,” and “Arf!”
Sensing that the survey respondents did not quite understand the question, not to mention that one of the respondents appeared to be on the verge of ordering me to work over the weekend, I decided to change the survey format. Instead of an open-ended question, I provided multiple-choice answers for the words at the beginning of the Constitution. Here are the choices:
With this new and improved survey format, the results were much different: “I still don’t know what you’re talking about,” “I dunno,” “Dad, I said leave me alone!” “That’s it, I want you in here all day on Saturday, Dunn,” and “Arf!” (which, when translated, is, “What up, dog?”).
OK, so maybe we’re a little rusty on our constitutional knowledge. But have no fear, the senior senator from West Virginia has come to the rescue. Sen. Robert C. Byrd (personal motto: “Re-naming an entire state after myself one federal project at a time”) pushed through a law this year requiring every federal employee and every public school student to receive educational and training materials about the U.S. Constitution.
Sen. Byrd prides himself on being the Senate’s unofficial constitutional scholar, possibly because he has fond childhood memories of witnessing the actual signing.
With this new emphasis on knowing and understanding the Constitution, I am sure most American soon will know the document begins with the phrase, “We the people.” I am also sure that federal employees soon will have yet another paid holiday. But at least we’ll all have a new opportunity to buy low, low-priced mattresses.
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