Friday, March 8, 2013

Filibuster: Pirating Democracy

Rand Paul
At 12:40 a.m. Thursday, Rand Paul finally ended his 13-hour filibuster to delay voting on President Obama's drone policy. According to Paul, “I will speak until I can no longer speak .” Being the word-geek I am, I decided to dig into this awkward-sounding “filibuster”.

The first thing I think when I hear “filibuster” is actually the pun Tiny Tunes used, “Fill a Buster.” One of the characters, Buster, a precocious little blue bunny was subsequently filled with air from a pump and then released like a balloon to fly around. Obviously not an accurate definition. (Watch it HERE at 3:10).

One blogger (known as Cam) notes that “ filibustering politicians are pirates hijacking our democracy.” And it is scary just how true that is. A filibuster is a tactic used by politicians to delay a vote by giving long, often irrelevant speeches.

The record for the longest filibuster goes to Sen. Strom Thurmond, who spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes beginning on Aug. 28, 1957, in opposition to civil rights legislation. Thurmond recited from the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, George Washington’s farewell address and other historical documents to waste away the time. You would think senators were hourly employees!

The etymology (origin) of filibuster is an interesting one. First used in the 1580's, the word came from “flibutor,” meaning pirate, and ultimately the Dutch “vribuiter,” or freebooter, a term used for pirates in the West Indies. The Spanish was “filibustero” and the French was “filibustier.”

In the political sense, “filibuster” did not make an appearance until 1865. The extension of meaning from a term for pirates to delaying politicians arose because they “pirated” the debate.
When asked if I like ninjas or pirates (the age-old debate) I usually choose pirates. They have a better personality, and they drink lots of rum. But these “pirates” are just irritating.

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