I failed to watch the hoopla of the Republican Convention a few weeks ago, but I did catch a few snippets of Sen. Zell Miller's fiery speech and post-speech interview with Chris Matthews.
After not liking the questions he was being asked, Miller had a few senile, irate moments and wished for a day when dueling was legal again.
Okay Zell, you may be losing it, but the whole dueling thing could have merit.
On the positive side, if the practice of dueling was reincarnated, it could curb rudeness, infidelity and folks being so quick to want to pick a fight. On the negative side, the rude and crude could win the duel, and hey, let’s face it, somebody could get hurt.
The most famous duel of all was between Alexander Hamilton, who played an integral role at the Constitutional Convention as a member of the three-man New York delegation, and his rival — U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr.
After Hamilton interfered with Burr’s bid for renomination as vice-president and hobbled his planned run for the governorship of New York, Burr had had enough and challenged his nemesis to a duel. On July 11, 1804, Hamilton ended up with a bullet from a smoothbore flintlock pistol lodged near his spine. He died the next day. Very civilized indeed, my good man.
Back in those days, no one was immune to being challenged.
From about 1750-1850, folks ranging from politicians to blacksmiths to newspaper editors found their manhood tested through a gentlemanly challenge from those at odds with their actions and words.
Facing the prospect of a duel today, politicians would be more apt to cooperate with one another; folks would learn to steer away from hitting on somebody else’s wife or girlfriend, and drivers would keep all their fingers up when they waved at a fellow motorist.
Dueling could also lift a burden off the police force and raise money at the same time.
Here’s how I see it working locally: a citizen spies his neighbor flirting with his wife or urinating on his flowers -- both reprehensible crimes -- and he challenges the offender to a duel. If the duel is accepted, a phone call is placed by the challenger to the Sheriff's Department: “Hey, I'm about to have a duel over here at Shady Oaks subdivision.”
A deputy would come out to officiate and make sure everything's done according to the law. The appointed town crier announces the duel and tickets are sold, with the money spent on a worthwhile charity like toys and clothes for needy children or methadone for drug addicts.
On the flipside, if an officer responded to a fight, a duel could be offered as a solution instead of a trip to the pokey. Jails would become less crowded and trailer parks would become wonderful, charitable ATM machines.
Two centuries after Hamilton met his demise, a civilized if not brutal form of gaining respect may be just what this world needs.
If the guy at Taco Bell leaves out my nachos for the fifth time, I simply enter the restaurant and challenge him to a duel. No, that’s too crass; we should use the old Code Duello, a set of dueling rules invented by a group of Irishmen in 1777.
South Carolina governor John Wilson later introduced an Americanized version of the Code in 1838. The Code requires us to act through a second party, so I would send a friend into the restaurant who would perhaps talk to the manager, acting as the employee’s second.
Friend: “Mr. Cummings says that the employee has repeatedly left out his nachos on numerous occasions, leaving him stressed and forlorn, and he wishes to challenge him to a duel.”
According to the Code, if he apologizes and/or gives me a free cinnamon twist, then the matter is settled, but if he accepts my challenge, then he chooses the weapon, and we get it on.
If a gun is his weapon of choice (instead of my preference, a grilled stuffed burrito), then after the first round of shots are fired he can then apologize and all is well, or we can keep fighting until honor has been restored or one of us is dead or severely wounded.
On second thought, exchanging bullets over nachos may not be where the new dueling laws would be most conducive to a more polite, loving and respectful society.
In all seriousness, I jest about the duel. Violence is never a good answer, and guns are a poison for a race too inept, demented and/or fumble-fingered to carry that lethal vial.
With the barbaric and inhumane ways people treat one another today, dueling would be just a dangerous extreme in fixing what can only be corrected through an act of God, a plethora of love and a return to good parenting.
I read somewhere and I forgot who wrote it, but it points out that the most common human trait is how inhumane we are to one another.
Thanks, Zell, for providing my topic of banter this week.
Be careful what you wish for, senator.Kevin Cummings is an amateur poet, songwriter, short story author and 2004 Georgia Press Association humorous column award winner. He is a staff writer for The Catoosa County News. For questions or comments contact him at email@example.com.