Welcome to our ool

November 10, 2012

I used to feel patriotic after voting on Election Day.  There was something reassuring and empowering about going to the polls, standing in line with my fellow Americans to determine the direction of our country.

I voted this year, like I do every year.  But it wasn’t as much fun as it used to be.  Four years ago I still felt a small measure of that old warm fuzzy. 

This year, it was gone – replaced by a crippling cynicism that made it difficult to even walk through the doors of the polling place.

I was raised a flag waving patriot. 

My mom drilled it into us how lucky we are to be Americans.  Voting is a privilege, an honor, and gift. 

We could have been born in the Soviet Union or China.  But we were born here, and we should never, ever forget our good fortune. 

Americans get to have a say in who leads our country, in how things are done.  In America, if you don’t like something, you have the opportunity to change it. 

For as long as I can remember, the Star Spangled Banner has given me a lump in my throat. 

Pride, dignity, honor.  These are the things I’ve always felt whenever I hear our national anthem.

I still get choked up every time I hear it, but these days, the tears are bittersweet.  I feel the same pride, the same dignity and honor.  But I also feel fear, uncertainty, doubt.

I still believe in everything America stands for.  I still believe it is the greatest country on earth.  I’m just not convinced my voice matters.  I’m not sure my vote really changes anything.

During my years of competitive swimming, many of the pools I visited had the following sign posted:

“Welcome to our ool.  Notice there is no P in it.  Please keep it that way.”

I was also a lifeguard during my teen and young adult years.  Every now and then, we’d have to clear the pool because someone had… er… how do I say this delicately?… relieved himself in the pool.

Most people scrambled to the sides grimacing in disgust when they realized what had happened.  But there were always a few stragglers who seemed unfazed by the yuck.

With all the chemicals modern pool facilities utilize, cleanup and sanitizing after such an event is fairly routine and very thorough. 

But I always felt a little sick to my stomach when reentering the water.  There was this sense that the only way to really know it was entirely clean was to drain the pool and start over with new, fresh water.

That’s how I feel about Washington and all those who aspire to live and work on Capitol Hill and in the White House. 

I feel like the only way we’ll ever get the place cleaned up is to drain it entirely and start from scratch.

The problem is, the only people interested in taking on the jobs in Washington are those who don’t mind swimming in a defiled pool.  All of the discerning people went scrambling out of there long ago. 

When I step into a voting booth now, I feel like I am voting for the lesser of two evils.  Who in their right mind would want to swim in the Washington pool?

This article first appeared in the Lewistown News-Argus and the Sidney (Mont.) Herald on November 10, 2012.