Archive for July 22nd, 2009

Ranking the Bill of Rights, Number 10: The Second Amendment

Luckily, the Bill of Rights is more limited than history. So, rather than ranking 173 historical happenings, I can get away with ranking a much more manageable ten amendments, which constitute the United States’ Bill of Rights.

Coming in last place is the Second Amendment which reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Seriously, Framers? That’s the best you can give us? The Second Amendment is—by far—the most poorly worded and punctuated amendment. The opening noun clause “a well regulated Militia” is neither the subject nor the object of the sentence. The opening phrase isn’t even necessarily part of the substance of the amendment, but rather a justification for the amendment. But, if the justification no longer holds—if a well regulated militia is not so necessary for a free state—does the declarative clause lose its meaning? Antonin Scalia maintained that it did not in the Heller case, claiming that the first clause is a prefatory clause, a non-exclusive reason for having the right to keep and bear arms. Moreover, there is significant ambiguity as to what constitutes “Arms” and at what point a right (which is arguably collective despite Scalia’s ruling) is infringed. And, what the heck is that comma after “Arms” doing there?

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Elementary, My Dear: Did Golf Have the Perfect Finish Sunday?

He plays golf. Your grandfather. Your grandpappy. Golf. A golf man. Is my tone communicating the contempt? Billiards on a big table, Jim. A bodiless game of spasmodic flailing and flying sod. A quote unquote sport.

—Infinite Jest

The criticisms of golf are many: It is boring, it is prejudiced, it is unfashionable. Most perniciously, it is not a sport.

I am not here to defend golf as sport; I’m more than willing to relinquish that fight, so long as you do the same with regard to bowling, track, swimming, cross country, and soccer, among others.

But golf’s always tenuous hold on sporthood survived one of its strongest challenges yet Sunday, when a seven-foot putt off the flatstick of 59-year-old Tom Watson sputtered off line and fell short of its target on Turnberry’s 72nd hole. In the process, the game* of golf had its cake and ate it, too: On a weekend absent of Tiger Woods—for the second consecutive year at the Open—Watson’s astonishing contention was the only major storyline—one that attracted far more viewers than a leaderboard of Lee Westwood, Mathew Goggin, and Stewart Cink ever could. At the same time, the fact that the 59-year-old Watson didn’t win restored, for the moment, golf’s lingering claim to sporthood.

*Note the noun.

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