Sunday, February 21, 2010


NYLJ 6/5/07


4. The Reader’s Digest section called Humor in Uniform was always a fond memory of childhood. There was a tacit guarantee of some form of received wisdom, of lessons culled from experience and distilled of all impurities by those who’d chosen a life in service to a higher cause than civilians. And, as one might suspect, responding to entrenched armed service bureaucracy frequently required a response that was, to put it mildly (as RD would), “salty”. This was how they would explain SNAFU: "SITUATION NORMAL: ALL FOULED UP." And if you think that's "fouled up", FUBAR was—even though not a neologism, as many had made it, coined by Vietnam vets—never mentioned. It is just not rational for anyone who has ever spent any time in or around soldiers or sailors to believe they would reserve such reserved speech for their objections; it don't make no sense.

This is only to preface how elisions of this sort my be used to gloss over indelicacies. Like the fact that such an august publication as the Journal chooses to put this in its headline shows how its constant usage has turned an acronym of sardonic contempt into a totally sanitized noun of its own. And, as with the astonishment concluding the previous paragraph, when it comes to the view from the high chair in the court, there are daily reviews of the absurd and profane which, occasionally, might employ common sense, when not overruled by precedent or statute.

In the matter of this Family Court contempt application, the petitioner here acknowledged receipt of the mailing. His quibble was that he couldn't read the warning section. And the judge can, as well, acknowledge that what the petitioner received was a piss-poor job of photocopying. This is when the Reasonable Person argument can be the best one; that this is no defense for ignoring it. There is something so inherently satisfying to make such a response to blatant statements like “This application was missing five letters from its statutorily-required warning, making it confusing and misleading” with a roundly sound, "SNAFU. So what?"

We may here acknowledge that the judge is entitled to one, long, profound sigh--and perhaps an admittedly theatrical rub of the temples. And no, he doesn't get to offer the above epithet. That the ruling can be summed up as something similar to 'Ok. So it wasn’t nice and clean and was probably a 10th generation Xerox of all-caps boilerplate. But if that doesn’t tell you it worked on generations one thru 9, you are deluding no one but yourself.'

So there you have what the petitioner might plead as a classic example of FUBAR...if the court allowed for even a Reader's Digest version of the facts.

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