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Congressman's insightful e-mail exchanges lost in translation

October 12, 2006|by TIM ROWLAND

Commentary

The case of Rep. turned Perp. Mark Foley, R-There Goes the House, fascinates me, but not for the reason it has fascinated most people across the nation.

Yes, I suppose I am shocked, appalled, outraged, etc. by his behavior, but face it: Elder statesmen chasing young boys is not news. In ancient Egypt, Akhenaten would have been excused for marrying his sister, but he instead took a shining to his little brother.

The Greeks were legend for it. Romans, too, even if they weren't so open about it. So while Foley's behavior is shocking it's not, well, shocking.

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What's changed, it would seem, is the level of discourse. In the ancient world, the boys were often protgs, as the older men taught them about religion, science, nature, philosophy - and I guess some other stuff.

Flash forward three millennia and take a gander at the pages of messages exchanged between Foley and the page. True, there is some Very Bad Stuff in these communiqus that people who are sick in the head will wish to dwell on, but I am more interested in some of the more insightful language. Such as this little back and forth:

Foley: hey

Page: scrounging for food ... brb

Foley: ok

Foley: kep scrounging

Page: boo

Foley: bo dude

Page: lol

Now I know what you're thinking. You are thinking, "Wait a minute, this is a congressman of the United Freaking States of America and we are paying him $160,000 a year of our tax money for him make wise decisions, solve national problems, be a voice for the people and make grand pronouncements of major significance for our great nation - and he's sitting there writing things like 'bo dude'?"

And if one guy gets caught, you just know there are about two or three or 50 other members of Congress batting inane messages back and forth to goodness knows who, and in so doing demonstrating the collective IQ of a radish.

Now I need to step in here and tell you to just calm down for a second because you may be jumping to unfounded conclusions. Being a hip, "Internet savvy" guy myself, I can tell you that Instant Messaging is all code.

See, teenagers don't want their parents to know they are secretly writing about deep philosophical issues, which would cause mom and dad to fear that their kids are too burdened by the weight of the world's problems at an age when they should be out playing in the fields, blowing on dandelions and eating Moon Pies.

So they have developed this secret Instant Messaging language to throw the folks off the scent. Translated, the above exchange actually means:

Foley: How goes the quest for enlightenment, grasshopper?

Page: I seek the nourishment of knowledge and the freedom of a higher spiritual plane ... But Reality is a Burden.

Foley: Your predicament is not unknown.

Foley: However you must maintain your quest that your thirst may be quenched.

Page: But I surprise you with my determination, do I not?

Foley: I acknowledge surprise and return it thither, my son.

Page: I appreciate your willingness to help, for Loquacity Overrides Lethargy.

The next eight pages of the transcript are a bit more difficult to translate in a family newspaper, seeing as how they are, technically, heavily X-rated. I'm pretty sure it's all a harmless metaphor, although there is a chance it may not be.

As parents and guardians, we know we can't be too careful, so it may be necessary to revoke Congress members' computer privileges for two weeks.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He may be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or by e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. You may listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on www.antpod.com.

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