Congress Got Rid of Lunatics But Kept All the Idiots

If you ever decide you’d like to learn all of the laws of the United States, you will need to grab a copy of the United States Code (or you can read it online here). Before you start, make yourself comfortable, because it will take a while. The Code currently consists of 54 titles and five appendices, and the verbiage is about as compelling as reading any of the print-on-demand books showing the numerical representation of googol.

Among the first things you will encounter in your journey through the U.S. Code is a list of definitions. In true government form, the definitions quickly establish the fact that Congress can make anything mean anything else. For example:

In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, unless the context indicates otherwise-

words importing the singular include and apply to several persons, parties, or things;

words importing the plural include the singular;

words importing the masculine gender include the feminine as well;

words used in the present tense include the future as well as the present;

Just as you are questioning your sanity about reading this legal monstrosity, you will discover that Congress anticipated your dubious mental state and provided a helpful definition:

the words “insane” and “insane person” shall include every idiot, insane person, and person non compos mentis;

In case you are wondering, “non compos mentis“ is Latin for “not having control of one’s mind.” In other words, the definition of “insane” is “not sane.”

As strange as this verbiage may seem, it is an improvement over its prior version. Until 2012, it read:

the words “insane” and “insane person” and “lunatic” shall include every idiot, lunatic, insane person, and person non compos mentis.

Then came the “21st Century Language Act of 2012.” Despite the grandiose title, the legislation had only one purpose: to remove “lunatic” from the U.S. Code. The authors and supporters of the measure argued that “lunatic” had become an outdated term, used only as an insult.

Texas Representative Louie Gohmert was the sole congressman to vote against the measure. He explained his vote, saying, “Not only should we not [bother to] eliminate the word ‘lunatic’ from federal law when the most pressing issue of the day is saving our country from bankruptcy, we should use the word to describe the people who want to continue with business as usual in Washington.

Despite Gohmert’s opposition, the “21st Century Language Act of 2012” was approved by both houses and was signed into law. Consequently, the United States is now a lunatic-free nation.

Curiously, Congress saw no problem with the word “idiot,” which it saw fit to leave in place. We can only speculate that someone pointed out that if we got rid of all lunatics and idiots, Congress might have difficulty achieving a quorum to do further business.

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