THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 373, June 25, 2006
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
I'm in the midst of a very busy weekend. My schedule is jam-packed with all of the usual weekend errandsbanking, grocery shopping, going to the post officeand many of the usual chores. In the midst of preparing for some upcoming events, I'm also rushing to clean my house. I have to do that this weekend because the maid is coming mid-week.
That I have an occasional appointment with a maid service may seem pretentious to you, but I can tell you this: It's cheaper for me to hire her to come over once a month or so than it is for me to expend time, energy, and a good deal of resentment doing it myself. She does a better job at cleaning than I do, and while she does it I can be doing other productive things. But without fail, I lose some of that valued productive time a few days before she gets here because I'm busy cleaning.
Yes, I know how that sounds. But I can't help myself! I don't want the maid to think that I live in a messy house. And I sure don't want to leave anything incriminating lying around for her to pick up and dust! (By "incriminating," I don't mean illegal or necessarily titillating. I just mean things that might cause a relative stranger to look at me askance, things like Playboy magazinedon't look at me that way, I subscribe for the articlesor some firearms publication or another.)
So every month, the maid comes over, finishes up the jobs I've already started, and scrubs the floors (the one thing I don't do before she gets here if that makes you feel any better) and goes away thinking I'm not such a bad housekeeper after all (except for my tile floors). Every month, I thank the maid for doing a good job, pay my bill, and am deeply appreciative of a house that's cleaner than I'd had it, including sparkling tile floors (which unfortunately last only until it rains or the cats knock over another bowl of potpourri and skate across the room in the resulting messwhich one of them actually does with appalling regularitywhichever comes first).
In the pastthanks largely to scrubbing those floorsthe maid has had a suggestion or two for me. She's given me the names of products that she's found do a particularly good job at cleaning hair spray residue from grout or that will remove scuff marks from white linoleum. (She's inevitably right, by the way, which means the house is a little cleaner the next time she comes to clean because I've cleaned a little more of it a little better before she gets here.) But that makes me wonder if she couldn't give me a lot more good advice if I just left things alone and let her see everything before I've cleaned it myself.
I don't know too many people who actually like to clean. I do it largely because I can't stand the results if I don't. Cleaning is boring, messy, dirty, and oftentimes tiring. It can also be a bigger job than we think when we first determine to take it on. Worst of all, it's all too often thankless. But again, consider the results of your failure to clean, and I expect you'll go get your vacuum cleaner and do what you must.
There are another couple of houses besides yours and mine that could use a good cleaning. Whether we like it or not, we're responsible for them almost as much as we are for our own homes. I'm referring, of course, to both Houses of Congress. Judging from their conduct, it's apparent a good cleaning can't come too soon, either! The good news is that we'll get our regularly scheduled opportunity to do so this November.
Unfortunately, the members of Congress know that a cleaning crew is headed their way, and they're scrambling madly about to be sure that none of us know just how dirty their House really is. They'll employ various "air fresheners"most often the type wafted around by heated airmaking promises that typically do smell pretty sweet. They'll sweep scandals under the rug. They'll listen attentively to us and go through the motions of removing a stain here or a bit of dirt there. And by November, they're hoping we'll look around and tell ourselves that Congress isn't such a mess after all.
I have to confess that, as shameful as it might be, I understand their motivations all too well. After all, I'm writing this week's column as I take a break before I'm compelled to run at least a cursory vacuum around the house. But the reality is that what my maid thinks of me or my housekeeping skills isn't important to anybody but me and herand it's probably not all that important to her. The dirty secrets held by Congressional Representatives, on the other hand, are important to all of us.
Before the campaigns get into high gear this fall, and before you get your every-other-year chance to sweep politicians intoand more importantly, out ofthe offices they hold, remember:
Just because the dirt is swept under the rug doesn't mean the dirt isn't still there. Remember the scandal du jour last week? Last month? If you don't, that doesn't mean it didn't happen. It just means you've been distracted long enough for it to be covered up with some other concern or news bulletin. Peek under that rugexamine your memory, or if that fails, back issues of some news source or another or the recall of an interested friendto be sure you can live with whatever dirt might still be there.
If the refrigerator looks clean on the outside, that doesn't mean the inside is just as clean. But when the refrigerator door is closed, all you can see is the outside. So don't just take your representative's word that something has been taken care of, or that he or she will vote one way or another on legislation in which you've expressed an interest. Follow up. Look inside the politician's ongoing actions and decide for yourself if outward appearances are a match for what's really going on.
Lots of things that look clean aren't. Oils that coat stove-tops are largely transparent (it's the dirt that gets caught in the oil that lets us see where attention is needed). The next time you see a politician smoothly turn away a question or answer it without really answering it, ask yourself just what it is that makes it so hard to hold on to anything he or she says. It could very well be that there's a slippery, slimy substance all over him or her that just hasn't yet held enough dirt for you to see it clearly.
Windows get dirty so gradually that we often don't realize our view is foggyand getting foggier by the day. The only way to tell for sure is to look closely at one and to compare it with another that we know is new and sparkling clean to see just how much our vision has been impaired. Many politicians are much the same way. They go to Washington with our blessing and their own good intentions, and in the corrosive atmosphere inside the Beltway begin with compromises and become gradually corrupted themselves. Simply because a representative started out as a good one doesn't mean that he or she stayed that way! It would behoove us to take a good look at each of the men and women in Congress before we cast our votes in their favor.
Once a month, I get the opportunity to have a truly clean house. It doesn't last longit requires some upkeep to stay that way. Sometimes I do a better job at that than others. I swipe a dust cloth over the furniture every week or so; I vacuum on Saturdays. Other times, I decide I'm too busy for the quick but regular maintenance chores, and I have to work like crazy to cover up a few of the shortcomings before the maid gets here and catches me slacking off on the job. But the end result is the same: I have a clean house, and one that's a pleasure to live in (at least as long as it lasts).
Once every couple of years, we get the opportunity to have a truly clean House. It doesn't last long, at least not with some politicians. And it requires a whole lot of upkeep to stay that way! We have to keep ourselves updated on the news from Washington and from our own states and Congressional Districts. We need to maintain contact with our politicians so they're aware we're watching and directing their actions just as any competent boss would do for any marginally acceptable employee. And when we slack off on the job, it's imperative we gird ourselves for the job of getting rid of the worst of the dirt for once and for all come election day.
Can you imagine what it would be like to have a clean House in Washington? To have politicians who uphold their oath to defend the Constitution? To enjoy representation that votes for the right and constitutional thing rather than for the expedient or politically correct thing? We can have it, but we have to want it and we have to work for it. We have to take some of the responsibility on ourselves if we expect the ultimate of cleaning mechanismsthe ballot boxto work. Yes, Washington is dirty. But it could be cleaned up. We just have to decide we'd rather live with a clean House than the all too dirty one we've got.
As recommended by Kent McManigal