As students of American culture, you may have heard tell of a legislative (or "law-making") body known as "Congress." That's right, your middle school teachers weren't just yanking your chain when they taught you about our nation's bicameral legislature.

Don't be ashamed if you're not in the know on this one. I thought that "bicameral" meant "of or relating to two camels" until I was tenderly corrected by one of my professors last spring, shortly after declaring a major in Government and Legal Studies with a concentration in American government.

Anyhoo, turns out that Congress does all this law-making business from inside a giant hill in Washington, D.C. known as the "Capitol." (Or the "Crapitol," as my quick-witted roommate boldly jibes. His japery knows no bounds or limitations!) It is within this hill that the law-makers of Congress discuss many important matters, like war, censorship, and legal recourse against those wayward souls that would burn Old Glory in lieu of log-wood and news-print. (That flag's for wavin', silly!)

And forth from this great earth-fortress, the Congress issues declarations of mighty import and trenchant insight, to be abided by all citizens of this land. And the citizenry does so willingly, for the wisdom of those lion-hearted, powder-wigged dynamos of democracy is unmatched!

But Congress isn't just a Washington-'sclusive operation, friends. If you can believe it, its mighty reach extends clear 'cross the nation, even here to our own humble hamlet, the Great State of Maine!

Representative Tom Allen, of Maine's first district, and Representative Mike Michaud, of the second, spend months at a time in the bowels of the Capitol hill, representing the Pine Tree State, her interests, values, and the welfare of her people.

I was enthused to notice this week, during a capricious perusal of our local news-letter, the Times-Record, an item cataloguing their week's activities. And what a busy week it was! Several resolutions had crossed the desks of our principled proxies, and it was with utmost thrall that I read the details of each.

The first: House Resolution 503, prohibiting the shipment, transport, deliverance, receipt, possession, purchase, sale, or donation of horses and other equines for human consumption. Both representatives voted yes.

Hum! I must say, this was not what I expected. From all I had pieced together from text-books, rumors, and folklore, the activities of America's legislature are characterized by profound arguments regarding policy, citizens' affairs, and the pursuit of domestic and global peace. But if the Congress sees prioritizing the grave concern of horses' rights as prudent to the national interest, I humbly defer to their superior wisdom!

The second: a provision to exempt certain Native American tribes to whose cultural traditions the consumption of horse meat is central.

Ah, this more closely resembles what I expected: the Congress bravely defending the rights of American citizens to practice their native rituals. 'Tis an admirable country indeed, whose government rigorously examines each act of law-making and assures that no citizen is denied his right to respect his culture's traditional...

Oh, it seems as though our intrepid Maine congressmen elected to strike down this provision. I must say that at this point, I am considerably perplexed. The function of the Congress, which only minutes ago seemed so sublimely obvious to me, now appears unclear! Perhaps if I examine this resolution more closely, I might come to understand how it is at all worthy of Congress's attention in this time of international conflict, genocide, and terror.

Section 1(b): "Horses and other equines play a vital role in the collective experience of the United States and deserve protection and compassion."

Ah yes, I now recognize the logic of this assertion, having viewed several John Wayne films and clips from the risible 1960s television program "Mr. Ed." "The collective experience of the United States": such a fine exhibit of rhetorical skill! And so irresistibly true-seeming! I am moved by a sudden impulse to salute a horse?and perhaps vote one into public office!

Horses, indeed, but other equines as well, surely deserve protection by Congressional resolution. Indeed, not only is the prohibition of horse meat ingestion vital to the preservation of the "collective experience of the United States," but other equines, such as asses, are undeniably symbols of American primacy. After all, who will save our asses, if not Congress?

I have learned a great deal about how the great Congress works this day! It exists not as a forum for debate concerning the nature and extension of human rights, the virtue of American intervention in overseas conflicts, or the proper interpretation of our founding Constitution, but to protect our asses from being eaten.

Huzzah for our honorable Maine congressmen, and for the 109th Congress of the United States!