Reader participation event! Help needed from all readers! Any and all suggestions welcome, so put your thinking caps on.
Here’s the deal. Back in ancient Rome, at the time of the Punic Wars, a Roman senator named Cato the Elder was famous for ending every speech with the declaration, “Carthage must be destroyed!”
According to Tim Moore over at the Classics Department of the University of Texas, this went on for four years, between the second and third Punic Wars. You remember about the Punic Wars: Hannibal, the Carthaginian general, brought the elephants over the Alps and all that. Anyhow, it was this guy Cato the Elder who got the Romans so stirred up that they went out and razed Carthage, sold the inhabitants into slavery and then scattered salt in the fields so nothing would ever grow there again. Rum lot, those old Romans.
What I’m looking for is a modern equivalent of “Carthago delenda est!” to be applied to our current system of campaign financing, which is a greater menace to American democracy than Carthage ever was to ancient Rome. The campaign finance system must be destroyed! Except, as you see, this slogan does not have much zip. So I’m asking for your help in the Zippy Slogan Department. Here are some of the nominees so far:
Get the government off the corporate payroll.
Destroy corporate payoffs.
Stop corporate-financed politics.
End political prostitution.
Eliminate dollar politics.
Stop the politics of greed.
Envision public campaign financing.
Please send your nomination for this worthy purpose, which I plan to use at the end of every column, to me at the address below. We don’t have a Cato the Elder in office right now, unless you want to count Sens. John McCain and Russell Feingold, so it’s up to us to raise so much Cain that the politicians will be forced to change the system.
How about all you citizens who work at ad agencies taking an hour to brainstorm on this as a public service and see what pithy pingers you can produce? Poets? Intellectuals? Flaks, hacks, wordsmiths of any type, underutilized housewives, bored pharmaceutical salesmen between calls - come one, come all, and join the effort to end the corruption that is killing American democracy.
Onward, upward and pay attention
And now, as another form of public service, I shall attempt to render into English the safety announcements heard daily on thousands of airplane flights around the nation. Last time I was seated in an exit row, dutifully reading the card that tells you what to do in case of an emergency, I came to the following final sentence: “If you cannot read this card, please contact flight attendant.” At that point, it became clear to me that these people need help because they don’t have the sense God gave a duck.
Anyone who would advise us to use a seat cushion as “a flotation device,” a phrase unknown in the English language, needs the help of trained professional translators. So I hereby challenge my fellow newspaper columnists to help the monoglots at the Federal Aviation Administration, whose only language is bureaucratese, communicate what they are trying to say to the flying public. My version:
“Listen up, passengers! We are about to read the safety regulations, and if you don’t pay attention, you could end up seriously dead.
“First, before we take off, you have to buckle your seat belt, tight. If you can’t figure out how to do that, sing out and we’ll come help you.
“Next, we need you to put the back of your seat straight up so you won’t break your neck if we crash. And you have to fasten that little tray into the seat in front of you so you won’t smash your head open on it.
“Next, figure out where the nearest exit is so you’ll know where to get out in case we crash. Look in front of you and look behind you until you spot an exit in both directions. Remember where they are.
“Put all your luggage away, or it will go flying around and smash somebody’s head in - probably yours. You can’t smoke, and if you mess with a smoke detector on this plane, we’ll break your arms.
“We’re not expecting any trouble, but it’s always possible something will go wrong and we’ll lose the oxygen in the plane. If that happens, a little yellow oxygen mask will drop out of the cupboard over your head and dangle in front of your nose. Grab it, and stretch out the kinks in the plastic tube so the oxygen can flow through it. Put the yellow cup part over your nose and mouth, and then put that little elastic strap around your head, just like you do with a Halloween mask. We would tell you to breathe normally, but that’s obviously ridiculous since you’ll be scared to death. Breathe deeply instead.
“If you’re traveling with a little kid, put your own oxygen mask on first because, hey, the little nippers can wait.
“Now, if we have to ditch into water during our flight over Arizona, here’s the drill: After we land, stand up, grab your seat cushion and head for the exit. Before you jump in the drink, stick your arms through the straps you’ll find on the bottom of the cushion, and it will be just like wearing a lifejacket.
“The main thing to remember is this: Crashes almost always occur on take-off or landing, when the plane isn’t going very fast, so your chances of surviving a crash are excellent. The reason most people die in plane crashes is because after the plane stops, they just sit there. They go into negative panic and don’t move.
“Since these suckers carry a ton of jet fuel, they’re apt to catch fire after a crash, and most victims die from inhaling smoke while sitting like lumps with their seat belts still fastened. So, here’s the key thing: The minute the plane stops moving, get up and get OUT, fast.
“Any questions? Have a pleasant flight, and we’ll be around with the drinks, pronto.
“And remember, you’re a lot safer traveling with us than you are driving to the Jiffy Mart.”
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