Our nation’s capitol is a mess. I’m not talking about politics — although, yeah, that too. I mean it’s literally a mess.
I recently took my entire clan to Washington, D.C., for a family vacation. You know, one of those vacations where you’re actually going places and doing things. Not one where you’re just sitting around doing nothing. I mean, it’s not like I was elected or anything.
We had a great time. There’s so much to see and do in Washington, from the Smithsonian to the National Archives to Ford’s Theater to Arlington National Cemetery. (For your bucket list: watching the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers.)
The weight of history is almost tangible, as you walk where giants have trod. I thought about that as I was coming out of the men’s room at the Capitol.
Even my two teenage sons enjoyed the trip, and they rarely enjoy anything that doesn’t involve sports or beautiful girls. Of course, there were plenty of beautiful girls in Washington, but they were all with Congressmen. Hey, maybe those were their dads.
Anyway, despite having a good time, we all came away feeling a bit disappointed, maybe even a little cheated. The first thing we noticed was the condition of the lawn on the National Mall. Well, OK, the first thing I noticed was that the National Mall doesn’t have a Gap or an Orange Julius, but the second thing was the lawn.
Normally, I’m not one to criticize when it comes to lawn maintenance. One wall in my basement is papered with letters from our HOA. But the Mall lawn made mine look like a Yard-of-the-Month candidate.
It’s been a few years since I was last in D.C., but I don’t remember it being that way. I seem to recall lush, well-manicured lawns with more grass than weeds — kind of like my neighbor’s down the street, except without the superior attitude.
Another thing we found terribly disappointing was that the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial had been drained. It was just a big, giant, ugly mud-hole. I wondered if they left it like that on purpose so that the politicians haggling over the budget would have easier access to their favorite ammunition.
But the worst part, I think, was all the temporary fences. They were everywhere, blocking you off from where you wanted to go, making you walk around or even preventing you from seeing certain things.
I understand that, since 9/11, the Capitol Police have become very careful. But seriously, is it necessary to put a fence between a busy walking path and a set of park benches? What’s that protecting us from? Tired terrorists?
In the end, I couldn’t help wondering if the disarray might be symbolic. Because Washington, D.C., really is a mess, and this time I am talking about politics.
Rob Jenkins is a local writer and college professor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.