Anyone got a 49-star flag handy?
We might need it. Send it by way of North Dakota. Assuming there is a North Dakota, that is.
No, the entire state didn’t fall into a black hole, though I admit that can be hard to tell around mid-January. Instead, it ran headfirst into its own 1889 state constitution – the same constitution that somehow failed to require an oath of office for the governor.
Legislators, yes. Judges, yes. Executive officers, no. And for 16 years, state resident Jon Rolczynski has argued that that means North Dakota isn’t a legal state.
“When I found the flaw, I was having dinner with a friend,” he told msnbc.com. “I called him over and said ‘Look at this! They forgot the word executive!’”
This year, the state – or whatever it is – agreed a fix was needed. So, next spring, voters up there will get the chance to clean things up. And yes, there have been numerous wise guys online asking to vote it down and confirm its non-state status. (How things would be better by being a U.S. territory without congressional representation they don’t quite explain, nor how North Dakota would go about refunding decades of farm subsidies and other federal payments even if this did put them outside the U.S. somehow. Details, details.)
As for me, two things come to mind. The first is that we finally seem to be fulfilling an old campaign pledge of Dave Barry’s, to sell off one of our extra Dakotas to help the budget deficit.
The second is that once again, we get to see the value of copy editors.
Copy editors are the vital folks that keep the news readable. They’re a little like mine detectors: When they do their job right, you never know they’re there. If they miss something … boom.
That’s when public affairs become “pubic affairs.”
Or when President Lincoln suddenly delivers a speech in 1964 instead of 1864. (AAA World not only acknowledged the error, it ran a photo of Lincoln appearing with the Beatles as a poke at itself.)
Or when no fewer than seven mistakes appear in an obituary of Walter Cronkite, including the wrong dates for the moon landing and the death of Martin Luther King, Jr.
It goes beyond news, of course. About five years ago, a comma was misplaced in a Canadian telecommunications contract. The difference in meaning cost Rogers Communications around $2 million.
Small things make a big difference.
Not a bad life lesson, for that matter. If more of us paid attention to the small things – little courtesies, minor maintenance, seemingly tedious busywork – the big things might never be a concern.
It’s when we fail to pay attention to life that we end up working ourselves into a state.
Or, in the case of North Dakota, working ourselves out of one.