In defense of us American Idiots, that thing is hard!
The article was vaguely apologetic, pointing out that even to experts, our governing system is a total and complete mess. It’s the kind of governing system you throw together when everyone wakes up the morning it’s due and realizes that he forgot to do his part of the project. “I brought a six-year-term, non-proportional Senate,” says Kevin.
“I brought a proportional House of Representatives elected every two years!” says Susan. “And a judiciary that is kind of elected and kind of appointed.”
“I brought twenty seven amendments!” says Mark. “And Rhode Island!” Everyone glowers at Mark.
Sure, our Founding Fathers had a complex rationale for this, something to do with balance of powers and checks and balances and classical models, but who has time to study those old white men? Charlie Sheen called Thomas Jefferson a [wimp], and if Charlie Sheen doesn’t respect you, you must not merit extensive study. Besides, why learn which amendment is which? We can always Google it.
But whether it’s Google or Charlie, it’s fairly clear that our civics lessons have failed to penetrate, leading Newt Gingrich to propose every so often that we add new laws preventing us from being governed by sharia law, apparently because he doesn’t realize the Constitution already covers that. And if Newt doesn’t get it, who does? I once met an old man in a law library who claimed that our system of government made total sense to him, but when I turned my back he disappeared.
So can you blame us for flunking the test? Forget world history! Forget engagement with the rest of the world! It’s too confusing here in our own back yard!
Think you’d fare better than 38 percent of us? See how you do on these questions! I’ve included my answers as reference.
Q: When was the Declaration of Independence adopted?
A: Trick question! It wasn’t adopted. It was “born in our hearts.”
Q: What happened at the Constitutional Convention?
A: What happens at the Constitutional Convention stays at the Constitutional Convention.
Q: Who was president during World War I?
A: Frank Buckles was the only one who knew the answer to that, and he’s gone now, bless his heart.
Q: Who did the United States fight in World War II?
A: I’m pretty sure it’s WHOM. Next question.
Q: During the Cold War, what was the main concern of the United States?
A: Global warming, am I right? I don’t know. During? Probably “keeping women suppressed,” or something.
Q: What did Susan B. Anthony do?
A: She invented the golden dollar! That’s why her face is on it and why vending machines won’t take it, because vending machines are misogynists and don’t think lady coins are worth as much as man coins, no matter what the Mint has to say about their relative value.
Q: What did Martin Luther King Jr. do?
A: Rhetorical Question: What didn’t Martin Luther King Jr. do? Non-Rhetorical Answer: NOT go around naming literally everything you can name after himself, including streets, public buildings and entire days.
Q: Who is in charge of the Executive Branch?
A: Dick Cheney, right? Secretly?
Q: We elect a U.S. senator for how many years?
A: For life, yes? I always get U.S. Senators and Lobbyists for the Motion Picture Industry confused, so I could be wrong on this one.
Q: If both the president and the vice president can no longer serve, who becomes president?
A: Trick question! The country falls into disarray, and we have to live in bunkers while the strongest members of the Senate engage in gladiatorial combat until a victor emerges! In the meantime, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Q: What is one power of the federal government?
A: To stay out of my back yard and keep away from my rights and belongings! Don’t tread on me!
Q: How many justices are on the Supreme Court?
A: Six, and three ladies.
Q: What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?
A: Terrible, except for the second one.
Thomas Jefferson said that if a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects something that is very, very likely to happen. At least I think that’s how it went.