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Kent Bernhardt: Give them an inch and they’ll take a kilometer

An old discussion is starting up all over again; the drive to convert the United States from a nation of inches and feet to a land of meters and kilometers.

The argument for and against usage of the metric system gets resurrected every so often, and while I don’t have a ruler in this fight, I do find both sides of the question interesting.

This time, it was Democratic Presidential hopeful Lincoln Chafee – don’t worry, you don’t need to remember his name – who poured gasoline on the glowing ember when outlining his political agenda, he uttered “Let’s be bold.  Let’s join the rest of the world and go metric.”

He thinks it would be a huge gesture of goodwill.

To a large portion of our country, he might as well have said “Let’s be bold.  Let’s outlaw clothing and run around nekkid, even in the winter.”

We’ve long struggled with this issue.  In fact, most countries at one time had their own system of measurement.  How did an acre become an acre?  It was originally the amount of land a man could plow in a day.

What kind of measurement was that?  Is it the amount you could plow, or the amount I could plow?  By the time I could figure out how to get ol’ Bessie hooked up, the sun would be setting and it would be time for supper.

CNN recently pointed out that it was only when nations started doing business with each other that there were calls for a unified system of measurement.  America, so far, has not heeded that call.

In fact, we’ve pretty much dug in our heels on that debate.

I was around for our last attempt to go metric.  It was 1975, and Congress passed the Metric Conversion Act which actually was intended to make metric the preferred measuring system of the United States.  The attempt fizzled like an Alka Seltzer tablet in a glass of water.

Proponents of the change at the time were labeled everything from “starry-eyed visionaries” to “godless communists seeking to overthrow the government”.

By the way, the latter description is the most effective.  It’s far easier to label someone a godless communist and end the discussion than it is to actually debate the facts.  As an example, see Facebook.

I don’t really care whether we measure things in feet or meters.  I think I’m like a lot of you.  I just want a way to know what size blinds to buy at Home Depot.

I can never find my yardstick anyway.  I measured some windows in a bedroom with it recently and forgot where I put it when I finished.  It’s in the kitchen in a corner – I think.

I don’t see a burning need for this change, but I don’t think it would kill us either.

If you notice, your car already measures your travel rate in miles and kilometers.  You buy your Coke in a two liter bottle.  And I don’t think there would be a major upheaval if water suddenly froze at zero and boiled at one hundred.

But I would tell Lincoln Chafee that if your presidential hopes depend on support for the notion of revising our system of measurement, you’re in a heap of trouble sir.

And a heap equals about two kilograms.

 

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