The Next Big Epidemic

I had chicken pox when I was a kid; it got me out of the final week of school. I got mono in high school, have suffered food poisoning, and have had more than a few cases where the flu knocked me out for days. I’ve known family and friends who have suffered and died from some of the more deadly diseases, including AIDS. But despite even the recent calls for concern about H1N1, Bird Flu, Swine Flu, Mad Cow Disease, or even Killer Bees, I must admit that there is only one virus right now that scares me; and, while it’s been around for centuries, a potentially devastating strain seems to be building in at least one eastern US city.

The contagion is called L.V.D. (Legalis Verbosus Deceptio). And although it seems to, so far, be manifesting itself mostly in a select community of individuals in the Washington D.C. area, I predict that this disease could easily spread to state capitals by the end of the year and begin infecting even local political venues shortly thereafter.

The disease can trace its origin all the way back to ancient spice traders shortly after the invention of the controversial technology of advertising and marketing. For some unknown and unexplained reason, sellers of all types of goods were witnessed developing previously unheard of and unused combinations of verbiage in order to make their wares more enticing to the unwary public.

Throughout history, the virus has gone through various periods of outbreak and dormancy. Most recently the world experienced an epidemic of what is now called the Retsyn strain, named for the chemical additive used to promote breath mints in commercials. The virus has taken several forms but has always displayed at least a few common characteristics. Primarily, the disease infects a person’s consciousness and causes them to cover their often dishonest objectives by wrapping their oral and written arguments in a confusing combination of legal rhetoric and broadly based assertions such that a person or corporation can give the illusion of assurance while retaining the ability to deny any and all perceived claims.

Examples include: hiding critical language in unreadable small print, inventing self-avoiding restrictions (applies only on days not ending in “Y”), or as noted above, inventing significance by shifting focus onto the obscure and meaningless (“now with Retsyn”).

Unfortunately, the strain that plagues us today has begun to take a new and much more destructive form. The disease commonly called “Legally Verbose Deception” has begun to appear in Congress in the form of thousand-page bills. On top of displaying the traditional symptoms, this adaptation has begun to compound the problem exponentially by hiding itself in a blizzard of oratory and paperwork. Not only can the infected individual no longer speak in common and readily understandable terms, but they now show little ability to remain concise.  Where before, this disease could be easily defeated by bringing the affected statement to the inoculating effect of public scrutiny, today the struggle is to even find the offending language in the first place.

This country was founded on documents written by simple scribes on just a handful of pages. Early bills were proposed using only a few grand sentences. And, legislation is always at its best when it can be easily understood and followed by even those with little formal education. But today, Congress can’t seem to put together anything without burning through twelve printer cartridges and fifteen reams of paper.

This article might be dripping with sarcasm, but by no means do I intend to disparage the devastating effects of the deadly diseases suggested above. Quite the contrary, this is a serious plea to take corrective action toward what I feel is an epidemic that can and will destroy the very foundation of this nation. I’ve written at length about the current issues facing the United States and I understand that there are some things that we just cannot agree upon. But, even on an issue as divisive as the current health care and insurance debate, I think most people would concur that the only thing accomplished by the recently televised Presidential conference was to publicly display the lack of transparency in our elected officials.

Not one person at that table felt free to say what they really felt, and rarely did any of them divert from their cautiously conceived and pre-printed talking points. Every single one came prepared with their own, handpicked facts, carefully cloaked in the manipulating language and assertions that eliminate all possibility of a unifying dialogue or constructive conversation.

As the tax deadline looms next month, everyone who files a return knows the frustration of trying to deal with the insurmountable burden of comprehending the current IRS regulations. So where will we be as a nation when that same disorder infects all legislation? Not so long ago, prosperity in this country was only restricted by how well you handled a horse and plow. Today it seems only possible to those who know a good lawyer and hire a skilled accountant.

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Volume 6, Issue 5, Posted 8:25 AM, 03.10.2010