Constitutionally Unsound

Below the Beltway
(Eric Shansby)

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By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, July 24, 2005

When you burn the American flag, do you use a hibachi or a barbecue pit? And do you blow your nose on it a first, like I do?

Okay, that probably did the trick. All the extreme right-wing nutcakes have stopped reading this column to go load their assault rifles, and we can now talk freely and without fear of harassment, which is our right as Americans.

Yes, once again conservative politicians have launched a demagogic campaign to create a constitutional amendment to outlaw flag-burning, as though episodes of flag-related arson were threatening to incinerate our cities. I think we can agree that if we are going to weaken the First Amendment by specifically squelching a certain kind of free speech, there are lots more deserving candidates than some pinhead trying to make an obnoxious point by burning a piece of cloth. For instance:

Proposed Amendment XXVIII: The organizers of musical events, or performers at said events, shall be prohibited from ordering the audience members to "put your hands together." The audience should be allowed to decide for itself whether it wants to put its hands together. Should anyone on stage ever order the audience to "give up some love," the concert shall be immediately terminated and the organizers jailed.

Proposed Amendment XXIX: Persons shall be prohibited from using their vehicles to inform drivers behind them that their child made the honor roll. Violators shall be required to instead use their vehicle to inform drivers behind them that their child is a nose-picker.

Proposed Amendment XXX: It shall be illegal to use, in speech or in writing, any of the following words and expressions, unless you know what they mean, which, sadly, you do not: nauseous, infer, erstwhile, penultimate and enormity. For similar reasons that you likewise do not understand, it is hereby illegal to utter the expression "I could care less." Also, if you insist on pronouncing it "vetinarian," or "expresso," or "ek cetera," or "supposably," or, most egregiously, "pronounciation," you may not speak at all.

Proposed Amendment XXXI: Men shall be prohibited from attempting to verbally communicate stall to stall in any public restroom, unless it is to request first aid for a heart attack. This prohibition does not extend to women, whose biology apparently requires this form of communication.

Proposed Amendment XXXII: It shall be unlawful for any business to record a voice-mail message that says, suggests or implies that the voice-mail system is in place "to better serve you." The penalty for violating this statute shall be that the business must re-record a truthful message, namely that the purpose of voice mail is to "delay and inconvenience you by making you do the work of the receptionist, whom we fired because we are a soulless corporate entity and wanted to save a few bucks."

Proposed Amendment XXXIII: Small-business owners shall be prohibited from appearing in their own TV or radio commercials, particularly if these commercials also feature their children, who speak in an adorable lisp. Because these commercials really bite.

Proposed Amendment XXXIV: No sports figure shall ever be permitted to use the expression "We can control our own destiny," because if one has a destiny, it is beyond one's control.

Proposed Amendment XXXV: It shall be illegal for radio stations to report the temperature at six different suburban locations plus the airport, because said temperatures are no more than one degree Fahrenheit apart, and who gives a rat's patootie?

Proposed Amendment XXXVI: It shall be illegal to wear a ring or other article of jewelry through the septum of one's nose, because, if your goal is to nauseate everyone around you, why don't you just staple the top of your tongue to the roof of your mouth so we can all enjoy the sublingual sight of stretched, veiny, gnarled protoplasm?

Proposed Amendment XXXVII: When in the presence of one or more other people, it shall be unlawful to laugh in a manner resembling the braying of a hoofed animal such as a donkey, or the barking of a marine mammal, such as a sea lion.

Proposed Amendment XXXVIII: It shall be illegal for a lawmaker to attempt to revise the United States Constitution for frivolous, blatantly political purposes; violators shall be forced to walk around wearing a little blue shirt and matching sailor hat and no pants, like Donald Duck.

Gene Weingarten's e-mail address is weingarten@washpost.com.

Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon at www.washingtonpost.com.


© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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