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'The Devil's Dictionary:' The convention edition

One major party's convention has just ended and the other is about to start. It's kind of like having a colonoscopy behind you (no pun intended) but a dentist's appointment still looming ahead.

In this giant spectator sport that is American politics, call it halftime.

And just like a typical halftime at the Georgia Dome, this one needs entertainment, both to take our minds off what we've seen and to steel ourselves for what we're about to see.

To that end, I offer another update of "The Devil's Dictionary." No, McCainiacs, that's not Barack Obama's dog-eared copy of Webster's. I'm referring to the slender volume of that title written by newspaper man and satirist extraordinaire Ambrose Bierce, to which I periodically presume to add.

Bierce, for example, writing early in the last century, defined "politics" as "a strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles" and "the conduct of public affairs for private advantage."

A politician, he said, is "an eel in the fundamental mud upon which the super-structure of organized society is reared. When he wriggles he mistakes the agitation of his tail for the trembling of the edifice. As compared with the statesman, he suffers the disadvantage of being alive."

In that spirit, allow me to offer a few timely definitions of my own:

· Democracy, n. Also known as "majority rule." A system of government in which those who do not understand the issues seek to impose their will on those who do.

· Democrat, n. A member of a political party whose ideology is nearly as impoverished as its constituency.

· Development, n. The process by which tree-lined streets in shaded suburbs are converted into well-lined pockets for shady politicians.

· Election, n. In a democracy, the process by which the government is elected. In Gwinnett County, a periodic affirmation of the status quo.

· Free, adj. Paid for by someone else.

· Platform, n. In politics, a metaphysical structure erected to support hot air. During a political convention, a physical structure built for the same purpose.

· Political convention, n. A gathering, every four years, of all current practitioners of the world's two oldest professions.

· Republic, n. A form of government in which representatives are elected to fleece the public on behalf of those not in a position to do so for themselves.

· Republican, n. A member of a political party dedicated to decreasing the size of government - preferably by eliminating all elected officials from other parties.

· Reform, n. The process of changing a system in order to make it more efficiently corrupt or to remove it further from the realm of logic. (See tax reform, education reform.) Vi. To adopt more effective measures for concealing one's bad habits.

· Victim, n. An individual who, despite decades of social engineering, has not managed to avoid the consequences of his or her choices.

Rob Jenkins is associate professor of English at Georgia Perimeter College. E-mail him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.