During the height of the Viet Nam War, when large Cold War military bases were awash with personnel, the commanding general of Lackland Air Force Base initiated a monthly $50 prize to the person who made the best suggestion on how to improve efficiency. My hero was a sergeant who won the prize by suggesting that two separate paper forms be combined into one new paper form.
A few months later, the same sergeant won the prize again by suggesting the elimination of the new form, since hardly anyone had used it in the last year.
Personally, I think his ideas were worth a lot more than a measly C-note: they should have at least named the Pentagon after him! The sergeant obviously had the kind of initiative and leadership skills that should have been encouraged.
There is merit in the idea of combining two problems in the hope the irritants will cancel each other out. This has been on my mind this week as a retiring Supreme Court justice has touched off another round of heated national debates about abortion. It has been only a few days, and already it seems to be all that the various news channels can talk about.
If we can maintain some semblance of civil discourse, I will happily debate with you the merits of water purification techniques in Nigeria. Or we can have long arguments about where your lap goes when you stand up. (While I was getting a degree in Anthropology, one of my professors—the late Fred Plog—happily admitted that all my new parchment was good for was official recognition of an ability to argue about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. I immediately proved him wrong by agreeing with him, thereby proving my suitability for graduate school.)
Abortion is different—there is no need for new arguments since clearly no one is listening to anyone else. If you watch any of these carefully staged “roundtable discussions” that television is so fond of airing (otherwise known as, "Let's you and him fight!"), all the participants do is talk over each other or wait until it is their turn to speak and say whatever they want—regardless of what anyone else has said. Hell, even faculty meetings are better, if only because they eventually adjourn.
No one's mind will be changed about abortion in the coming months, just as no one's mind has been changed in this debate for years. (Frankly, I wish the issue had been settled at the ballot box decades ago, instead of turning our courts and state legislatures into an endless game of one-upmanship.
Every president promises not to use the issue as a litmus test for appointing judges (usually the opposite of what he promised as a candidate)—and this lie is followed up by the charade of potential candidates' promising the Senate Judiciary Committee that they have open minds about an issue that every post-pubescent American has long since already decided.
“Judge Smith, can you comment on how you might rule on anything, if this body was to confirm your appointment to the highest court in the land?”
“I can’t comment about anything substantive, Senator. That might come up in a court case and I want to keep an open mind. Besides, if I told the truth about anything, half of you guys wouldn’t vote to confirm me and I would lose a lifetime job with good pay and great benefits.”
Somehow, the only American in the entire country without an opinion about abortion is a potential candidate for a court that will likely decide the issue for the rest of us.
These endless arguments remind me of the endless nonsense about gun control…. Hmmm.
Combining the two problems is the obvious solution, so I propose that we officially change the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights to read as follows:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms or seek an abortion, shall not be infringed.
Yes, the idea is insane, but there is method to my madness: just think of the possible benefits! First, we will have an Amendment that will please—at least in part—both the left and the right. Second, the ACLU can, once again, defend all ten Amendments making up the Bill of Rights.
The pointless debates would end, since regardless of your political leanings, you can find something in the reworded amendment you like. No one would want to repeal the Second Amendment...At least not in that form.
We could then go back to picking judges for their judicial wisdom, not for their religious preferences. Politicians could be judged on… something? (I’m still not sure what they do when they aren’t throwing red meat at their constituents).
Best of all, the donnybrooks over federal funding for Planned Parenthood and whether the National Rifle Association has bought your congressman could end! Actually, you could combine both organizations under the new name, "National Rifle and Abortions". (It would bring a whole new meaning to the term, "NRA Life Member"!)
I look forward to the day when the New and improved NRA buys airtime on MSNBC. I can already imagine their new slogan:
“Assault rifles and abortions—if you don’t want one, don’t get one.