I recently got into a discussion about the Dream Act with an old friend of mine and I decided to blog about it, and in order to write with any degree of authority on the subject, I downloaded the text of the bill. I wanted to read it through and through so as to fully understand its merits and its weaknesses. What I found, however, was a whole different problem. If anyone wishes to understand a bill, it is available for public viewing in downloadable PDF format; you simply need Adobe Reader on your device. That is not all that you need, though. I find that a doctorate in gibberish studies would be beneficial as well.
The text of the bill is written in English. I recognize it from the words on the page, but it does not follow the rules of simple syntax. It does not establish a premise, have supporting points or a conclusion. It is written by lawyers for lawyers and most lawyers would have difficulty deciphering the cross references. This is another glaring example of how our legal system has devolved into a self-serving quagmire of double talk that doesn’t make sense.
Legislation has become so bogged down with legalese that the language is indecipherable to laymen. Perhaps this is because legislators want job security (most senators have law degrees) or maybe (and I think this is most likely) they don’t want Joe the Plumber to understand what goes on in Washington. An ignorant public is an easily led public. When Joe begins to debate the merits of a bill, the legislators find themselves having to defend their pork barrel policies and they fail to pass. If the bills can be obfuscated behind complicated language that creates headaches in those who gaze upon it, then it is more likely to pass, since no one really knows what it says.
That is what happened with the healthcare legislation. Even the law makers who worked on the bill didn’t know what it said; they wrote it, but others added and changed it so that it no longer bears any semblance to what was originally drafted. The legislators even admitted that they didn’t know what was in the bill, but they passed it anyway.
It is still a positive character trait to be considered “plain-spoken” and to be forthright and honest in your communication. Writers who understand the power of rhetoric can couch their message in language designed to evoke feelings and persuade readers to action. Poets can use words to paint beautiful images that call to mind flights of fancy. Nothing of the sort happens in Washington. Words are twisted into a confusing jumble of blunt objects that cause nothing but problems and require a Secret Society Decoder ring to understand.
Perhaps what Shakespeare had Dick the Butcher say in Henry the 6th holds true; for Utopia, first, let’s kill all the lawyers.