#138 Getting a Close-Up Look (2005)

All Rights Reserved © 2005 Thomas W. Day

When I look at the pitiful state of US politics, it's sometimes hard to understand how we managed to fall so far from the ideals of the "Greatest Generation" or Kennedy's "Great Society" or even my own 60's generation's dreams of a fair and bright future with limitless opportunity for everyone. 

Apparently, I only have to cross the street to get a clear understanding of what went wrong. 
I live in a small suburb of St. Paul.  My house backs up to a tiny "lake" that was cut in half by the Interstate system in the 1970s.  After being partially filled in an attempt to kill the lake entirely, the lake was designated a "watershed" and it's been a dumping ground for street and yard waste ever since.

In 2003, the county watershed folks and the incompetent buffoons from the Department of Natural Resources decided to remove local control of the watershed's average height by installing an oversized drain at the lake's outlet.  Being the lowest of low on the engineering totem pole, civil engineers, they mis-measured the original lake height by more than two feet and turned the lake into a muddy, plant-infested swamp. 

After two years of complaints from residents, they allowed a public meeting to complain about the lake and to propose a resolution.  Not wanting to admit that they couldn't use a level and a tape measure competently, they presented residents with a complicated tale of engineering difficulties that amounted to what we'd all expected; they screwed up a very simple measurement. 

Their "solution" was to allow the lake drain to be raised 12-18" to return the lake to "almost it's original shoreline."  However, that solution could only be accomplished if every one of the lakeshore owners agreed to allow the change; in writing.  They were able to screw up the lake without any consultation, authorization, or checks-and-balances, but they wouldn't fix it unless all the i's were crossed and all the t's were dotted. 

Of course, at least one neighbor was overwhelmed by the power to obstruct and we've been stuck with a mosquito-breeding mudpit for at least one more season.  Like the idiot I am, I decided to find out why anyone would want the lake to remain so low that it was useless for any recreational or scenic purpose.  I got an ear-full of modern American ignorance.  

"The city has been dumping on us since we moved here," was the first justification I got from the female of the house.  Their home is at the bottom of a long, sloping cul-de-sac, and has been since it was built in the 1960s.  When it rains, the water funnels down the slope and ends up in their garage and basement.  No big surprise, water has always done that downhill thing and any idiot would have suspected that a house at the low end of a road might collect some water.  These idiots, apparently, didn't know about water and hills. 

Being true, middle-class, white Americans, they expected "the government" to fix their home's design problem.  When that didn't happen, they became bitter, angry, and stubborn.  Our lake's dilemma was practically an answer to a prayer for them.  Even if it didn't solve their more practical problem, they had found a way to irritate their neighbors. 

Probing further in the mind (to abuse a word massively) of my neighbor and nemeses, I discovered that she had latched on to a sentence that described an alternative, $100,000+ study, process that the county could use to justify raising the lake level.  These fine examples of American citizenry interpreted that to mean that there might be $100,000 available for their completely unrelated problems.  When I tried to explain that this was taxpayers' money that would be wasted on an unnecessary study, the bristled and went into a talk-radio-inspired rant about "the government" and some weird shit that I couldn't connect to our topic in any way. 

In the end, she said that she and her pussy-whipped husband wouldn't allow the lake level to be corrected unless "they [the county] buy our property or guarantee that nothing bad will happen."  From her previous remarks I took that to mean that someone would have to provide her with a written warranty that their lives would be simple, responsibility-free, and profitable.  In other words, she was expecting a handout. 

I've heard a lot about how the Boomer Generation is lazy, selfish, and ignorant, but I've been blessed with mostly associating with the complete opposite examples of my generation.  However, I do everything I can to avoid uneducated conservatives, regardless of generation.  From this little excursion into the mind of a typical American middle-class voter, I am reminded of why no rational, intelligent person would get involved in politics.  The country is over-stuffed with uninformed fools expecting a free ride and they are well represented by the current class of corporate shills and conservative clowns who populate local and national politics.  "We have met the enemy and he is us."

July 2005

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