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Bonzer Words!: Bill Of Rights

"I'm no head doctor. The only thing I know is that my brain sorts things out by immediacy, not priority,'' writes Gloria MacKay.

What's the first thing I think of every morning even before I open my eyes? Coffee! Never important stuff like the state of the world, or the market or the family. Never philosophical stuff like the miracle of sky—which is always blue if you look deeply enough. Never incomprehensible stuff like man's inhumanity to man... and women. We count, too. Not even the simple expectation of toast softly sliding into the day with grace and real butter. My brain delivers first things first; before toast there has to be coffee.

Clearly, I have no experience beginning my day with a metaphysical twist.

No meaningful conversation with a brain that can't think before coffee.

Calendar wisdom is about as good as it gets: the day after tomorrow is the third day of the rest of your life; one seventh of your life is spent on Monday; does killing time damage eternity?

Obviously, I have never opened my eyes in the morning with history dancing in my head. (Sugar plums, once; my brain took an early lunch.) I can go a whole day without thanking the universe for that faded piece of paper called the Bill of Rights stashed safely in the National Archives on Constitution Avenue in Washington D.C. along with the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and, rather ironically perhaps, a copy of the 1297 Magna Carta confirmed by Edward I. Americans did not invent freedom, we just try to drag it along and keep it alive—safe from the world and each other.

So, days pass without the presence of these monumental documents penetrating my brain... months... seasons... years... a lifetime. Excuse the hyperbole, I'm thinking now but it ain't easy. I have a lot to do once I have my coffee and my train of thought does not run down the center of Constitution Avenue.

It isn't as though I have the Bill of Rights tattooed all over my private parts but I never read it because I don't have a big enough mirror.

It isn't as though my head is so stuffed with my personal treasures—such as Ella sashaying through Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered complete with verse and refrain and without a single word bowdlerized—that there is no room for anything less titillating, like the Bill of Rights.

It isn't as though my heart remains so teary-eyed with words I memorized in high school—for instance the Langston Hughes bit about a blue cloud cloth and the too rough fingers of the world, that I sit like a dried fish when the History Channel chitchats about it.

And it isn't because the first 10 amendments to our constitution (aka The Bill of Rights) was squeezed into our history like a PS at the bottom of a letter instead of leading the parade with trumpets and a drum roll that I forget it exists most of the time.

And finally, it isn't because I was never encouraged to spell out 'freedom' when I ate my alphabet soup that I forget about my freedoms.

The fact that my country's Bill of Rights is not the most significant happening in my life awake and asleep does not mean that my country's Bill of Rights is not most significant happening in my life every day and as I sleep.

The difficulty is that I have never been without it. I take freedom as much for granted as the tinge of salt spray in my hair blowing through from Puget Sound and the sight of Mount Rainier sitting like an ice cream cone (tutti-frutti at sunset) just south of town. All three of these are 'givens' and it is hard show proper appreciation to givens.

And for first things first, after coffee comes toast brains it is impossible.

My brain can't think like this. First things first. After coffee comes toast. That's why we have hearts.

© Gloria MacKay


Gloria writes for Bonzer magazine. Please visit www.bonzer.org.au


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