The Politicians’ Rulebook
By Claire Wolfe
February 1, 2006
“We need more laws,” Nat announced. He stormed in from the feed side of the Hog Trough Grill and Feed, plunked a bag of horse needles and penicillin on the big round table and plunked himself angrily onto a chair.
The rest of us stared at him in silence over our grits and gravy. Finally, a couple of us managed to croak,
“That’s what I said, innit?”
“But MORE …?” I couldn’t go on.
“Laws.” Nat nodded.
A strangling gargle came from one of the side tables as one of the less hardy Hardyvillians began to choke in disbelief.
“You want more laws?” Carty snorted (as only big, bald, bold Carty can snort). “Hey, I can tell you where to find a few million pages of bills, laws, regulations, rules, ‘zecutive orders, and whatever the heck else you want.”
“Naw, not like those,” Nat scoffed. “We got more’n we need of those.”
“Uh … yeah. Now there’s an understatement. Like ‘the universe is somewhat large,'” I nodded, finding my voice again. “So what kind of laws do we need?”
“Ones politicians will have to obey.”
More sounds of strangling, gargling, emphysematous breathing, gasping, gulping, jollity, panting, short-windedness, stertorous wheezing, hilarity, hoopla, mirth, and general drollery from the peanut gallery.
“No, no. I mean really simple ones. About 10 of ’em. Laws that applied to politicians and nobody else. Ones even a dog could memorize.”
Carty snorted again. “Dog’s too decent to go into politics.”
Nat ignored him. “I mean like … ‘You can’t start a war over nuclear anythin’ as long as you’re too damn ignorant to pronounce nuclear.’ See? Just common sense laws.”
“Oh, I gotcha,” I said. “Like, ‘If you pass a law that nobody else can understand, only you and anybody else who voted on it will have to obey it.'”
“Yeah. Like that.”
“Wait a minute. I gotta write all this down.” I rummaged in my backpack for a notepad. “Nookyular,” I noted. “Un-understandable. I feel a column coming on.” Then I looked around. “Okay, the Hardyville legislature is now in session. What other laws do we want our politicians to obey?”
Dora-the-Yalie looked up from the plate on which she’d been pushing indescribable ingredients from side to side. “If the other guy’s political party is a terrorist organization because it advocates aggressive violence, then your own political party is a terrorist organization if it commits aggressive violence. And will be treated as such.”
“If politicians think a war is a good cause, they should go and lead it themselves. In person,” Carty said, “Like real leaders used to do. Instead of hidin’ behind their desks, their bodyguards an’ their self-righteousness.”
“Or,” Dora went on, “If you don’t think an administration action constitutes torture, then volunteer to submit to that treatment to demonstrate how decent and humane your policies are.”
“Getting a little heavy there, Dora,” I muttered as I scribbled. “Uh … guys. Since they’re not going to obey these laws, anyway, could we go for ‘lite’?”
“Not a ‘lite’ subject,” Nat objected. “Heavy as the whole damn U.S. Code.”
Bob-the-Nerd, who had seemed off on another planet (as usual) looked up from his laptop computer and offered, “If you’re going to make laws banning technologies, first you have to prove you understand something about technology.”
“If you’re caught illegally spying, don’t think you can get away with it just because you repeatedly call it something else,” Dora added, apparently on a roll.
“That’s not even a law,” I objected. “C’mon guys. I want to write a lite, funny Hardyville column about getting politicians to obey the law. ‘Ha ha,’ you know? ‘What could be sillier than thinking gov-o-crats will ever obey their own laws?’ Laughs all around. But this stuff is depressing.
“No more depressin’ than the economy’s gonna be when the politicians are done with us,” Nat shrugged. “How ’bout ‘If you’re gonna redistribute the wealth while flapping your lips about limiting gummint the first wealth you redistribute to the poor should be your own.'”
“Good one.” Everybody nodded around the table. Me, I just looked at my growing list in gloom.
I had to agree. “And if you shoot the family dog — and damnit, the goons always shoot the family dog — you should expect to be shot less mercifully than you would shoot a dog.”
Now even I was getting waaaaay too heavy.
“Stop it, stop it,” I insisted. “This isn’t fun. Anyway, Nat, you wanted 10, you got more than 10. And what’s the point, anyhow? There’s no gov-o-tician or bureau-rat or ninj-enforcer on earth — except maybe one — who’s ever going to hold himself to the same standards he expects us to live by. The standards are always different for them and their flunkies than for the rest of us. They don’t give a *&^%$ if we die for some minor offense, as long as our fate’ll scare everybody else into obeying their rules. Rules for peasants. Rules for subjects. Rules for cowed, cowering, crouching…”
“Claire. Claire.” Janelle-the-Waitress came up behind me and patted me on the shoulder. “Let me get you a nice cup of hot tea, Claire. Everything’s okay.”
“It’s not okay! As long as we have to …”
“Yeah,” added Nat. “And what few gov-o-rats and bureau-ticians wander in here better know they rules are enforced different, too. You wanna talk ‘nookyular,’ cross us and we’ll show you ‘nookyular.’ And we won’t even need a bomb to do it.”