Breathe, Read; ignorance is no excuse

This is an essay by K. E. Argonza.

Did you ever sign a contract without reading it? Did you ever put your name on something without ever looking at what it was? Most of us have, especially with a salesman breathing down our neck. Maybe the salesman thinks they’re doing us a favor when he explains it paragraph by paragraph, taking five words to explain what is embodied in several paragraphs on the page. If we read it, it doesn’t mean that we absorbed or understood the information.

Putting our name on a contract is harmless enough for something like a phone bill or an internet provider. The implications are worse for something like a divorce decree, an auto loan or mortgage. We’re just good old normal people though, and when we don’t read something that we sign, it only has implications for us. It harms no one else in the long run.

So what happens when lawmakers don’t read?

The Patriot Act, voted in with a standing ovation in 2001. The name itself was a huge rallying cry for Americans still shattered from the wounds of September 11th. We were high on this new “USA! USA!” chant. We were the sleeping giant and Osama Bin Laden had woken us up. Plus, our lawmakers are intelligent men and women of Congress. These are people with great educations, assistants and staffers who make important decisions.

Surely, they would not enact something into law that they did not read.

They would not succumb to the salesman breathing down their necks pressuring them to sign the dotted line.

It was the wake of 9/11 and the document we did not read was the Patriot Act.

We extended the Federal government’s rights to collect intelligence on our own citizens, detain immigrants, conduct domestic surveillance and do secret searches with little restraint. The very things that were considered our constitutional rights for decades were stripped in 3 days. The bill passed the House of Representatives 357-66 on October 24th, 2001. The Senate passed the bill the next day. The President signed the bill on October 26th, 2001.

That’s three different stages where such a bill should have been read, but wasn’t. For the few that had read it, they should have calmed down enough to think through the implications and the consequences. I’m sure many of those in Congress that day regret allowing that bill to pass. That was a novice mistake from the people who run our country.

Maybe it was no one’s fault, after all, the document was not made readily available to citizens and barely made available to elected officials.

As one might say that we should not denounce a book without reading it, one should not praise a piece of legislation without reading it either.

What are we putting our name on?

Have you signed a petition online, whether it be on facebook or some other social media? Did you look up the cause or the company? Even if the cause is good, maybe the method in which that organization chooses to fight for that cause isn’t. Is it a violent group? Is it one that denounces the American Government? Does it have questionable affiliations?

I have seen friends on facebook sign their name on a petition support same-sex marriage, the environment, the return of prayers in school only to discover that the group hosting the petition believed in destroying the government in order to attain those rights. As we all know, once it’s on the internet, it’s very difficult to take off.

So breathe. Read. And take a moment before you attach your name to something.


K. E. Argonza has lived in four countries, was once fluent in three languages and has an annoying inability to stay in one place. This addle-minded millennial beat writer is an Afghanistan veteran, blogger at and can be followed on twitter @KEArgonza.

Photo: Some rights reserved by D.C.Atty.

1 comment

  1. Amarie Fox

    I enjoyed reading this immensely. Such useful information, but also an interesting break from what I usually read on RLW. Hopefully, you will consider writing for this site again.

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