JENKINS: A special legislative edition of 'The Devil's Dictionary'

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

With the state legislature back in session and Congress stubbornly refusing to just go away, it seems as good a time as any for another installment of "The Devil's Dictionary" -- and no, Tea Partiers, that term doesn't refer to Nancy Pelosi's personalized copy of Webster's.

The original "Devil's Dictionary," as you may recall, was the brainchild of early 20th century journalist and political satirist Ambrose Bierce, whose sardonic wit was matched only by his acerbic pen.

For example, Bierce defined politics as "a strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles" and as "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."

Periodically, I take the liberty of updating Bierce's classic volume with a few modern definitions of my own, such as the following:

* Budget, n. 1) A list of all expenditures not classified as "off-budget," which is to say about one-third of the total; 2) a device for punishing those not currently in favor with the party in power and rewarding those who are.

* Democracy, n. A system of government by 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 constituents.

* Legislative session, n. An annual gathering 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 elected officials from other parties. In Georgia, Republicans were until recently known as "Democrats."

* 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, etc.) Vi. To adopt more effective measures for concealing one's bad habits.

* Sunshine laws, n. Measures developed by states to prevent their own agencies and those of local governments from operating in secret and thereby without the consent of the governed. Sunshine laws are so called because of the attitude certain local governments display toward them, which is that the state government and private citizens alike can place them where the sun doesn't shine.

* Transparency, n. The politician's proverbial glass house, typically inhabited by those most accomplished at throwing stones.

* Victim, n. An individual whom social engineering has not yet succeeded in saving from 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.