Monday, August 12, 2013
Vacation - My Favorite Time of Year
This time of year brings back many fond memories for me. Like many children who grew up in the Dark Ages, when video games included such exciting titles as 'Pong' and ... 'Pong', many future nerds were forced by their parents to spend some part of summer vacation time outside, unwittingly exposing their bodies to the deadly UV rays coming from the sun (as opposed to the deadly rays of energy that we were told were coming from primitive television sets at the time). Apparently there was some addictive property to such UV exposure however, since before we knew it we were not only willing to be ripped from our pre-cable interior existence and our complacent suburban lives, but soon found ourselves actually looking forward to being deported to the even more primitive living conditions which our parents called 'Vacations'.
For my family (and a group of my cousins), these summer migrations became the annual "Great Northern Pilgrimage" (please note that the word 'White' was not used in the title, since the Canadian border was never crossed). Early versions of these Lewis and Clark cross country (or more accurately Ford 'Town and Country') expeditions began with simple border crossings from Illinois to Wisconsin for a return each year to nature (along with the lumberjack championships in Hayward), but eventually even the lure of day long fishing and learning to log roll began to pale as expansion of the Interstate system allowed civilization to encroach on these escapes. Overcrowding soon caused the clan to continue north and west, moving across the Minnesota border many miles, before ending up in an area north of Brainerd called Fifty Lakes. Here there was little exposure to newspapers, none to television, and the only real concerns were whether the fish were biting or the bear outside of the bait store might be interested in a bottle of orange pop if we made a trip to it for more worms.
Though unfortunately those days are far behind me, this time of year remains my favorite; not because I'm on vacation, but because both Congress and the President are. After one last gutless bit of misconduct in sparing themselves from the onerous obligations of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), The Teleprompter Kid and Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight (at least with the American Public) road off into the sunset for some well-deserved time off. Interestingly enough, this summer escape for Congress dates back to the founding of this country and the fact that our nation's capital was built on a bug-infested swamp suitable for only for the habitation of blood-sucking parasites in the days before air conditioning was invented. (A tradition which has apparently changed little over the intervening years.)
The President is now temporarily off of his stump speech tour of promoting the recovery of the middle class by vacationing on an island where the truly rich go to escape the plebeian company of the semi-rich and upper middle class (Martha's Vineyard). There, having traveled with his staff of cooks and servants (and a special fight for the first pet), he'll be able to rest, relax, and form a clearer understanding of the hardships of a growing class of people who remain unemployed or underemployed, while renting a multi-million house ($6.7 to be exact) from a Democratic donor and enjoying rounds of golf at private country clubs.
Congress meanwhile, is taking a five week break from its partisan bickering to purportedly return to their constituencies and re-establish contact with the 'little people' who sent them to Washington in the first place. (Besides, all the lobbyists on K Street left town.) The fact that most of those that they're likely to see are at local events are those contributing to the future campaigns of these professional incumbents is probably only a coincidence (if not a political necessity). There may be a town hall meeting or two where the unwashed can show up, but they're likely to be held in Senatorial districts not up for re-election or safe Congressional districts.
This year, a lot of people are very angry with the President and Congress for abandoning their posts, since they've done such a lousy job of doing their job that not one Appropriations Bill from the nation's annual budget has been passed a mere six weeks before the fiscal year is set come to an end. They're concerned over the rumored political strategies from both sides of the aisle threatening to turn the process once again into a series of contentious 'Continuing Resolutions' that allow their elected representatives to write even worse legislation than usual, while ostensibly resolving their petty political squabbles. And while this last minute annual budget mess is going on, many can't help but likewise notice that the debt ceiling again needs to be raised, and that the only thing keeping the US from defaulting on its debts are some bookkeeping tricks performed by the Treasury Department that would get you thrown into jail if you tried them. Some might find the presence of such dual national financial crises a curious time for those in charge to leave. Not I however ...
I find that any departure of the nation's perpetrators at any time provides some necessary time off for the rest of us (and the more often, the merrier). Without glacially-paced Congressional hearings and discussions of speculative Congressional strategies, I sleep safe at night knowing the nightly news will be far more boring. With the President off the stump speech circuit (at taxpayer expense) and on vacation (at taxpayer expense), even the cable news show pundits seem far less bitter in their rants. With both parties off doing fund-raising at home instead of writing comprehensive (incomprehensible) 2,000 page legislation in DC, their miserable minions in the daily newspapers report on cheery weather trends and state fair attendance instead. Without the constant polling data telling me that no one believes it's getting any better out there, we're allowed to complacently accept our roles as a low information voters, and the world is far more at peace. Oh sure the problems are still there, but it's not like our elected leaders were making a real effort at resolving them before they left (rather than attempting to make political points); and at least they will be made no worse for a couple weeks while the inmates take a break from running the asylum. We can all relax while the Harry Reids and the John McCains take time off that they don't deserve ... to give us some that we desperately do.
No, those days of my youth are over, and it's unlikely that I will be making a 'Great North Pilgrimage' any time soon. There will be no fishing involved for me this year, and bringing that bear a Nehi or Orange Crush these days (if he's even still alive) is far more likely to get me a nasty phone call from New York Mayor Bloomberg (if not a visit from the ASPCA). But that's Okay with me; for even in these changing times, vacation is still my favorite time of year.