Marisette Edwards-van Linden van den Heuvell

Politics over the dam

I hate, detest, despise, disdain politics. The current political state in the U.S. makes me throw up a little in my mouth every time I hear a detail. I have been nauseated for nearly a year, and there are still five months to go.

To make the nausea go away, I fantasize about what would happen if the whole bunch got put into 8-person rowing shells.

For the unfamiliar, rowing shells are long, open boats with a very thin hull. They are about 60 feet long, weigh about 250 pounds when empty, and are about 20″ wide in the middle. They have 8 wheeled seats rolling on tracks that face the stern (back) of the boat. There is also one stationary seat in the stern facing the bow (front) of the boat for the coxswain (“cox”) who steers the boat and commands the rowers. The cox faces the rowers and is the only one who can see where the boat is going. The rower facing the cox is called the stroke seat because the rower in that seat sets the stroke rate the other rowers have to follow. The seats are numbered from #1 in the bow to #8 (the stroke) in the stern. The rule is that there is no talking in the boat except as permitted by the cox.

In front of each rolling seat is a stationary board to which the rower attaches his feet, and to the side, a rigger on either the right or left side of the boat with an oarlock to hold the oar in place. Each rower mans one oar which is about 12′ long. During the rowing stroke, the rower pushes down on his handle to carry the blade above the water while sliding up to the catch position on the rolling seat. At the catch position, he raises the handle to drop the blade in the water, then hangs on the oar handle and drives back on the rolling seat, using first leg power, then back power, and finishing with arm power. The cox has to plan ahead to steer the 60′ boat, which has a keel about the size of a saucer and a rudder about the size of two quarters. A turn has to be started before getting to the curve, and the rudder has to be straightened before the turn is completed. A strong boat with all eight rowing in sync can pull a waterskier. If one person in the crew is not in sync, it throws the entire boat off.


What follows is the scene in my head.

Hillary Clinton has experience rowing in all the positions, from #1 seat in bow all the way up to #8 seat in the stern. Being a coxswain should be no problem for her. But her boat isn’t moving well. Half of the rowers have their hands over their ears because her voice is too shrill.

Bernie Sanders’ boat is rowing remarkably well. The stroke rower keeps flinching and wiping away bits of spittle as Bernie shouts, and there is some confusion in the bow when Bernie keeps yelling about 1% and the rower in #1 seat thinks she’s getting a command, but generally the boat is moving well. The crew is violating the no talking rule, though, as they shout trash talk over to Hillary’s crew.

Donald Trump is of course a coxswain because he’s good at telling people what to do and his hands are too small to hold the oar handle anyway. The oar blades in his boat are made of gold. He is oversteering both left and right because he’s never done this before, but that isn’t his fault. It’s either his rowers’ fault or that of the spectators. Actually, it’s not a fault at all. It’s a point in his favor. His 8-man team is missing a few. Two refused outright to get into the boat, one was kicked out by Trump because he looked Hispanic and didn’t have his identity papers handy in his spandex, and another jumped overboard after Trump told her that her ass was too big. Trump was last heard shouting to a bikini-clad girl on a power boat: “See that dam? I’m going to make it yuge! And I’m going to make the fish pay for it. Hey, you bozos, row harder against that current!”

Two boats of former Trump competitors follow in his wake. They look confused, sad, and determined. They are rowing half-heartedly at best, but are still being carried downstream.

POTUS is sitting in the coxswain seat smoking and joking. He’s gotten so sick of his rowers talking in the boat and responding to each of his commands by rowing backward, that he finally sawed all the blades off the handles. The rowers are still shouting and flailing, but they aren’t getting anywhere. In the meantime, POTUS has a fleet of drones commanding boats out of sight upstream.

The Supreme Court is missing a coxswain altogether. There is one standing on the dock wishing he could join them. They are perfectly balanced, and they row in a straight line. Unfortunately there is a curve up ahead. They end up in the weeds.

Congress is divided into many boats. They don’t know what to do with themselves because they’re backwards. If they are manning an oar on their left side, they are rowing on the right (starboard) side of the boat. If they are manning an oar on their right side, they are rowing on the left (port) side of the boat. Some boats have a crew that is like-minded. The ones on the wrong side row backward while the ones on the right side row forward. So they go in circles. Most of them, because they can’t possibly be seen rowing on the wrong side, just sit there doing nothing and drifting downstream. To the dam where Trump was last seen.

A distant rumble becomes a deafening roar as hundreds of cigarette boats carrying lobbyists arrive on the scene. One, named “Bare Arms”, appears to be sinking due to an accidental gunshot through the hull. It could sink slower, but the occupants refuse to throw their automatic weapons overboard to lighten the load. Potential rescuers, alarmed by the frantically waving weaponry, decide to maintain a safe distance. Another, named “Trust Me, I Care”, has just rammed a crew of doctors and patients who were rowing well together, separating the physician half of the boat from the patient half. Their intent was to hand the patients Fitbits to wear as an incentive to save money by tracking their healthy activity. Now that the patients are injured, though, the powerboat’s crew has to hurry back to their office so they can tell the doctors when the patients are ready to leave the hospital. “Sugar” is listing dangerously under the weight of its hidden cargo. A cigarette boat named “Citizens United” appears to be unmanned. It’s full of cash. The boat named “Bull Market” is weaving back and forth so erratically that everyone else is racing for cover. “Economy” is lagging far behind. A small fishing boat named “News” keeps casting for drama and catching more than the legal limit.

The cigarette boats encircle Bernie’s crew until the resulting wake swamps them.

The spectators on shore are appalled. It’s an obvious question. Don’t these people see we are all in the same boat?

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