Monday, April 11, 2011

Peeps, Pups, Passports, and Politics - Part 2

It's Monday, and here we are on the other side of the federal budget showdown with the government still up and running. Congress got there kicking and screaming Friday night with minutes to spare. I don't think many of them were willing to take the rap for withholding government services and paychecks from Americans during an economic downturn. Our feckless leaders, against every fiber of their petty, partisan beings, managed to pull a compromise out of their collective rear ends at the last second (I want to use another F word here, but it would be unbecoming and not fit for print, and feckless is actually a great word to describe Congress of late: 1. Lacking in efficiency or vitality. 2. Unthinking and irresponsible. - I think the first is a pretty apt description of the Democrats, and the second could apply to a particular sect of the Republican party, but you could interchange them and it would still work).

So when exactly did compromise become a dirty word? We work tirelessly to teach our toddlers the value of sharing and working together, but the example Congress is setting for our young people flies in the face of those lessons. When did our leaders and much of our population become a bunch of 2-year olds with an all or nothing mentality - mine mine mine - my way or the highway? The lame Democrats pouted and procrastinated about the budget and the manic Tea Partiers threw a Planned Parenthood tantrum - infantile, self-concerned behavior from the people we depend on to govern. I guess maybe it's fallout from the "me" generation, but seriously folks, we need to get it together and rediscover the art and grace of compromise. While as Americans, we value our right to be individuals, we also as Americans have a contract with one another to act in each other's best interest. Compromise is our most powerful tool for interacting effectively and ensuring that everyone's collective needs are best met. When we cease to value opposing perspectives and approaches and insist on viewing the world through a narrow, stubborn, selfish lens, we set ourselves on a course toward our demise.

I am grateful to the Republicans, and yes the Tea Party, for forcing this budget issue and insisting that we get serious about reigning in our spending. It demonstrates why we need both parties, and others, at the table. Having said that, the cuts need to be made in as fair a way as possible across the board. If our representatives start stubbornly cherry picking budget items or shielding fat cat contributors to suit or advance their own partisan agendas or campaigns, this will not go well, and we will all pay a price for it. If they get serious about being fair and working out mutually digestible compromises - spread the pain as much as possible - we will all be better for it. I know, I'm getting delusional now...

OK, I am DONE with the politics part of my title. I will wind it up by sharing this picture of my daughter and her new passport that arrived on Thursday - just in advance of the possible shutdown - so we had our bases covered in case Congress crashed and burned on Friday. I commented in a Facebook post that while the middle finger is unintentional, it is apropos. Take that, Congress.

As for the Peeps, they too were held hostage to the possible shutdown of the government. I decided to take advantage of a light soccer schedule this weekend and planned an excursion to DC for me and the kids. Our first stop was to be a pilgrimage to the Peeps and Company store at National Harbor. I will wax poetic about Peeps in a later post, but suffice it to say that we are Peeps crazy in this household, and we've been eager to check out this Peeps mecca for some time. It's a bit of a drive just to shop for Peeps paraphernalia, so we decided to tack on a visit to the Smithsonian in DC - ah, here comes the roundabout Peeps tie-in to the government shut down. Bear with me...

My son recently asked if he could use some of his allowance money to adopt an orphaned elephant through the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. This is a remarkable organization run be a remarkable woman, Dame Daphne Sheldrick, in Kenya. They take in orphaned baby elephants and nurture them until they are ready to return to the wild. Henry browsed the photos and stories of elephants online and was drawn to Dida, a four-year old female elephant, who was rescued as a baby from a sewage drain. After dealing with Laika chewing up Kathryn's passport last week, an elephant lovingly cared for by others in Kenya was the kind of pet I could handle.


Then last week, I heard an interview on NPR with Daphne Sheldrick and a movie director discussing a new 3-D IMAX film called Born to be Wild about the Sheldrick center and a similar foundation in Borneo that raises and releases orphaned orangutans. The movie was opening this past weekend at the National Museum of Natural History's Johnson IMAX Theater. I thought the kids would enjoy seeing this film about Dida's refuge, so I went online and purchased tickets for a Saturday show. The plan was to hit the Peep store early and then head into DC by Metro (bus and rail) to avoid the Cherry Festival Parade parking fiasco.

Well, of course, until midnight on Friday, this plan was in jeopardy as the Smithsonian would have been closed, but thanks to Congress hammering out a COMPROMISE, our adventure was salvaged, and it was a fun time indeed. The movie was terrific, if a little too short to suit me. I could have watched those wonderful elephants and orangutans and their generous caretakers on and on. If you have opportunity to get down to DC, it's worth the price of admission (free for the museum of course, but $9 for the IMAX movie).

I'm not a fan of crowds, and that's exactly what we encountered at the Smithsonian on Saturday, but as we picked our way through the hordes of families, both American and foreign, waiting to see Marie Antoinette's diamond earrings or a mammoth or T-rex, I couldn't help but be happy that all these people's plans, like ours, had not been ruined by the pettiness of politics. I was especially appreciative and proud of the wonderful services and enriching opportunities our federal government provides with our tax dollars, and I am hopeful that when the axe really comes down, that it will be wielded with as much wisdom and fairness and maturity and consideration of the nation's, and all her peep's, wellbeing as possible.

Some of the things we saw on Saturday because the government was open:

Natural History Museum Rotunda
Sikh Khalsa Day Parade
Easter Island Dude
Quiet Museum Stairwell
Some Prehistoric Water Creature
Hope Diamond
Peeps Mecca

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