by Justice William W. Bedsworth
Tough topic. I wasn’t sure I had much to say about this. It’s not a subject that has come up in my court, and—other than the fact I have reached an age when fiber takes on more significance in one’s life—it was not one to which I had given much thought.
Indeed, when our intrepid editor1 mentioned in a phone call that this was to be a themed issue devoted to that topic, I first thought I had misunderstood her. But she repeated it a couple of times, and even without my hearing aids,2 I know what fiber is.
And I’m a team player. (Those of us who were lifetime .260 hitters always like to think of ourselves as “team players.” I’m sure the stars don’t value that attribute as highly as we scrubs do.) If the team is doing fiber security this month, then I’ll do fiber security.
Most dietary fiber comes from common cereal grains: wheat, oats, barley, corn, millet.3 The rest is provided by a law firm called Amaranth, Triticale, and Teff—a little-known fact that I came across through assiduous research.4
These grains are typically grown in large fenced-in fields. I had always thought that was to keep them from wandering off—as other farm animals would do—but it turns out it is a security measure. As my cousin Bobby, who grows things on a big farm in Missouri, explained to me, bran and ergot molestations were common until the late nineties when Congress passed legislation requiring fences around all farms.
This was, of course, the Fence Our Fields to Keep America Safe for Children, Baseball, Apple Pie, Raisin Bran, and the Sanctity of Marriage Act of 1998. It is significant because it was the last time Congress was able to agree on anything more consequential than the day’s lunch menu.5
At any rate, most observers6 thought the fencing legislation had guaranteed the security of our farms until September 11, 2001, when terrorists flew a hijacked plane into a corn field in Pennsylvania. Congress responded with the American Patriots Do Not Route Planes Over Vital American Farming Territory Act, generally referred to as the REALPATRIOTISM Act of 2002.
That made it illegal for anything bigger than an egret to fly over any plot of unpaved land with more square footage than the twelfth green at Augusta National without permission of the Transportation Safety Authority. Environmentalists, eagle-huggers, and other Communist party front groups complained that the legislation was overbroad, but it was pointed out that, had the terrorists not been diverted, they could have taken out three cornfields, and the political atmosphere of the time was not one that accepted aerial risk-taking.
The legislation passed the House and Senate unanimously. What had first been recorded as a dissenting vote was changed when it was explained to the senator who cast it that he had misread the title of the act and that it was REALPATRIOTISM rather than REGALPATRIOTISM, so his opposition to monarchy was not offended by a “yea” vote.
And for the last fifteen years, our fiber industry has operated in relative safety. The Fence Our Fields to Keep America Safe for Children, Baseball, Apple Pie, Raisin Bran, and the Sanctity of Marriage Act of 1998 and the REALPATRIOTISM Act of 2002 have been remarkably effective in discouraging terrorist attacks. And the Keep Mexican Elephants South of the Border Where They Belong and Out of Our Wheatfields Act of 2014 has succeeded so well that there has not been a single recorded instance of elephant destruction of crops in Nebraska in the last two years.
True, the industry has had to deal with serious rancidification problems,7 but those have not yet been traced to any terrorist organization. Most observers8 feel that arming cows would enable farmers to overcome rancidification, but many of them have objected to the additional costs involved in buying cow gun cabinets and teaching their cows proper gun safety.9
Congress is expected to act on the problem as soon as they can develop a catchy acronym.
But recent events may have outstripped the fiber lobby’s attempts to get federal funding for better fences. As I write this, Republican front-running presidential candidate Donald Trump has called for a wall between the United States and Mexico, Canadians have called for a wall to protect them from stampeding Americans if Trump is elected, and Governor Jerry Brown has suggested California might need a wall to protect itself from the rest of the country—just on general principles. (Time Magazine, March 16, 2016; I thought I’d put that citation here to save you the trouble of going back to the footnotes again.)
All these walls will, of course, put a tremendous strain on our national budget and would probably force Congress to move the Taller Walls Make Better Neighbors Act of 2016 onto the back burner, next to the advise-and-consent consideration of a new Supreme Court justice, the disintegration of our infrastructure, gun violence, poverty, and all the other pesky issues they have difficulty dealing with during the ninety-seven hours a year that they stop campaigning and stroll through the Capitol.
Candidate Trump says the Mexican government will pay for that wall, but their response—not suitable for publication in this magazine—has not been encouraging. Most observers do not expect to observe such an eventuality.
So I’m just not sure what the future is for fiber security. Oh, some fibers will be secure as all get-out. Marijuana, for example, is just chock full of fiber. And security.
Hemp farmers have always taken a very pro-active approach to security. Indeed growers of marijuana have long employed the shoot-on-sight fiber security they modeled on the approach moonshiners have used for protection of their grain product for a century or so.
And now that marijuana legalization is spreading like the three drops of coffee that somehow turn into a nine-inch stain on your shirt, we can expect more of this Second Amendment security. It would, of course, be a shame to see the gun violence of our cities expand into the heavily rural marijuana-growing zones, but, in the words of fiber security expert Barry Goldwater, “Extremism in defense of fiber is no vice; and moderation when it comes to bran muffins and cornflakes is no virtue.”
Something like that. I can’t really remember it word for word.
So if District of Columbia v. Heller makes our fiber fields safer, and we can’t afford more fences, then so be it. We’ll move on from the eleventh century security of walls to the eighteenth century security of guns.
Besides, in the words of fiber security expert Robert Frost—who was a well-modulated voice crying in the wilderness when the Fence Our Fields to Keep America Safe for Children, Baseball, Apple Pie, and the Sanctity of Marriage Act of 1998 was passed—“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”
Okay, Ms. Gaffaney, there it is. 1500 words on fiber security.
So what’s next month’s theme?
William W. Bedsworth is an Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeal. He writes this column to get it out of his system. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. And look for his new book, Lawyers, Gubs, and Monkeys, through Amazon and Vandeplas Publishing.