Friday, December 18, 2009

Grass Pharisees

No, not that kind, the green stuff all over the ground, what you always meant by "grass" before the 1960s. Now, I don't really mind grass, I don't dislike it or anything like that. It 's just that sometimes we move and find out our new neighbors have some kind of fixation on grass. Some people think their yard has to look as good as any golf course, and a few of them seem to measure it regularly to see if it needs to be mowed again.

Now I am not bothered that much by people like that; if they get pleasure out of their yard, that's okay by me. But too many of these "grass freaks" get all religious about it; they want ME to take care of my lawn the way they take care of theirs. And that is where I get bothered.

I guess when you come right down to it, I just don't care that much about having a perfect lawn. It does not excite me that much, certainly not enough to put in all that work to get it. I'll do other things, mainly on the house itself. Give me two-by-fours, drywall, paint, wire, pipe and a bunch of tools, and I'm a happy man. But grass? As long as it is reasonably green, and not too tall, that's good enough for me. (No, I don't water my lawn much; it costs money, and I'd just have to mow it that much sooner. Astroturf? If I had that much money, I've got better things to spend it on, like tools.) So what if there's dandelions? They're kind of pretty in their own way, and it's fun to see the fluff blow away. Raking leaves? Whatever for? better to let them go back to the soil where they are, rather than deplete the soil nutrients by bagging them up and throwing it all away! No, I do not get excited about cutting grass, or fertilizing it, or weeding it, or any of that stuff. I'll cut it eventually; I've never let it get so long that I found a car when I mowed the yard. But I don't do it enough to please those grass Pharisees.

We did make one of them happy this past year. We moved away from him and sold the house to somebody else. I don't know if his new neighbor is a grass Pharisee; I know he isn't a fixer-upper like me, because he bought a very fixed-up house from us. That house was in rough shape when we bought it, and the buyer got a very nice house when we left. That's what my wife and I do with houses: buy them run-down and cheap, and clean them up and make them nicer than we found them. We just don't do any more than we have to with the doggone yard!

Friday, December 11, 2009

I have written a few times about writings of Francis Schaeffer and the things he foresaw in our culture. But I want to take a little space this time to point out some things he did not see coming. I was re-reading portions of his 1979 book "How Should We Then Live" in which he saw a bleak future coming for our society. Some of his concerns are problems for us still, but others have changed in unexpected ways or been replaced by other problems, and a couple have possibly given new hope that he did not see.

One major change since 1979 that he did not foresee was the collapse of the Soviet Union, the breakup of the Warsaw Pact and even the secession of some of the Soviet "republics" like Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Russia today is still an authoritarian country, and possibly always will be; it would take generations for a people without a history of self-government to develop it from scratch. Likewise, the change of China to an authoritarian but somewhat capitalist state might have surprised him.We still have threats of war and terror, but now it comes from Islamic terrorists, not from Communists. It is still not comfortable, but there is a difference.

He also wrote about the use of "high-speed computers" by authoritarian states (Communist and our own) as a tool of oppression. But about the time of his death in 1984, the computer began to change from a tool for government, big business and academia to a tool for many ordinary people, with the arrival of the personal computer and the Internet. I saw some statements years ago that the copy machine helped bring down the Soviet Union; I once saw another that technology had allowed to KGB to tape so many phone conversations that they lacked the manpower to listen to and evaluate them all, and their system went down anyway.

Now, the further development of computers in the last twenty years has become a way for people to communicate across the country and around the world. And while governments may try to restrict the freedom of the Internet, their success may be limited. Recent events in Iran raise the possibility that regime may yet be brought down, in part, by the Internet and Twitter!
My last post was about "Climategate", and I heard a statement on a local radio show referring to Al Gore's claim years ago to have invented the Internet, which has now been used to cut the ground from under his Global Warming crusade.

The Internet has done something else as well. One of Schaeffer's concerns was the power of a biased press and media in our culture, especially to spin the news and even determine what gets reported as news. But that power has taken severe hits in the last few years. Talk radio and Internet news sources have eaten into their monopoly. In a number of cases in the last few years bloggers have broken major stories before the press did, and sometimes in spite of the press's attempts to ignore them. Climategate is only the most recent example; the Acorn videos gives another. When Dan Rather was pushing the letters reflecting poorly on George Bush's military service, it was bloggers who noticed, and published, that those letters must be forgeries because certain details in the print were possible on word processors and computers, but not on typewriters--and word processors and desktop computers did not exist at the time the letters were supposedly written. Bloggers are still around, but Rather is off the air. The power of the "mainstream media" has been severely reduced and may yet be broken.

And to add injury to insult, the Internet has been a major factor in the "legacy media" going broke. Newspapers are shutting down all over the country; the New York Times has borrowed millions and laid off many of its workers. The threat to them is two-pronged: competition from other sources of news on one hand, and loss of advertising revenue on the other (my wife and I have not bought anything from a newspaper classified ad in years, but we have bought several items, including our vehicles, from Craigslist). The downward spiral seems likely to go on for a while longer, and shows signs of taking down many magazines as well as newspapers.

So, some of the clouds Schaeffer saw thirty years ago have turned out to have silver linings. We still have causes for concern, some of them the same and some different; but we also have cause for hope. I certainly have enjoyed the friendships I have found online; some have been across the country, and some did lead to local face-to-face relationships. We will face the remaining problems as we have to.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


One of the hot topics of the last week or so has been what's called "Climategate" or "Climaquiddick" after past scandals. People are arguing over the significance of the leaked material, but a cursory reading of the emails certainly does look like certain scientists have played fast and loose with both the data and with the historic ethics of modern science. And quite frankly, I was not all that surprised by the revelations now coming to light.

Those who have read a lot of my blogging, and people who have known me well over the years, are aware that I have had two favorite Christian authors for many years: C.S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer. I have often said that I read Lewis for his understanding and expression of Christianity and Schaeffer for his understanding and expression of our culture. (In the last couple of years, as I acquired Schaeffer's "Complete Works" set and read the books I had not been able to access before I increased my appreciation of his more specifically Christian material, but that has cropped up in other posts and may again.)

If Schaeffer were still alive (he died in 1984) he would not be surprised by these recent events either. While he had serious criticisms about the way the environment had been treated by our society, and even by those who were supposed to be Christians, he was also one of the first to notice that the "environmental movement" had been taken over by leftists as a tool to gain influence in society and government. And if you look at the actions being promoted to combat "global warming" many of them are top-down, coercive, government-imposed answers that will increase the control of a few over many.

The second thing I was reminded of was Schaeffer's discussion of the likely direction of science, in his book "How Should We Then Live" from 1979. He brought up the writings of Alfred North Whitehead(1861-1947), who had written that modern science had arisen because of the teaching of Christianity that God was rational and created an orderly universe. This belief made it possible for the early scientists to work out the things that became the basis of modern science. And Whitehead was not a Christian writer; he was a mathematician and philosopher but not even known to be a Christian at all. Yet he admitted that modern science grew out of the Christian view of the world.

But later in the book Schaeffer made a prediction. He declared that as science got farther and farther from the Christian worldview that made it possible, it would decline and tend toward two things: a high level of technology, and sociological manipulation. We certainly have the high level of technology; the computer I am writing this on and the Internet that carries it to whoever may read it are proof of that. But there are more and more signs that we have the efforts to use science to manipulate society as well.

And that is what is at the root of "Climategate": an effort to make the "science" give the desired answer rather than searching the data and seeing what the data actually means. These emails talk about "tricks" and adjusting data to reflect the desired outcome, and about refusing to share the original data so that someone else can verify your results (one of the basic traditions of the hard sciences), and even trying to discredit and silence any critics or skeptics. And one of the latest revelations is that the original, unaltered "raw" data was thrown out and all that remains is the fudged "data", which was doctored to match the theory, where a real scientist would doctor the theory to match the data! These are not real scientists; they are political hacks.

This one "Climategate" incident is bad enough. But there have been plenty of lesser scandals in recent years. A few years ago someone was claiming to have achieved nuclear fusion-"cold fusion" in his lab; it was later label a hoax, because no one else could duplicate the experiment successfully. A South Korean researcher claimed to have cloned multiple animals; he is now facing fraud charges, from what I heard a couple of weeks ago. The continuing emphasis and grant money for embryonic stem cell research, in spite of the failures in that area and the successes in adult stem cell research, are another case of ideology controlling science.

This last point is my own thinking. I am not a scientist, but I went through a pretty decent science program in my schooling many years ago. There was one assumption that underpinned all the scientific advances, all the work of the last few hundred years: trust. Scientists must be able to trust each other to work objectively and honestly. That is the real basis for duplicating experiments and peer-reviews of results, to make sure no one violates the trust of his co-workers. (Those early scientists who started the whole enterprise had grown up with the Christian view that people are flawed and may not be totally trustworthy at all times, so they went for, in Ronald Reagan's words, "Trust, but verify.") And that "Trust" component is exactly what is at stake here. The "Climategate" emails seem to indicate that these " scientists" have doctored data to fit their theory, ignored data that did not fit, thrown away the original data so no one else can check their work, and abused the peer-review process to silence anyone who might call them to account. This is no longer a scientific problem; it is a morals problem.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Hard Choices

I know I haven't written anything for a while; as I said to a friend lately, "Life is what happens while you were making other plans." But some things have been nagging at me for several months, and maybe I can get something down here.

There's been a lot of noise the past few months over the "enhanced interrogation" methods used on some of the captured terrorists by our government. I have to admit that a lot of the outrage on one side strikes me as politically motivated, because so many of these people have been putting down traditional morality for many years, and mocking anyone who seems to be associated with it. (I may have something more to say about this in another post, if I can get it written.) Yet suddenly they are up in arms over this misbehavior! They have excused all kinds of moral lapses among their friends and supporters, but let their political opponents commit a sin, and they are enraged over it.

I've seen some others who are conservatives themselves and are outraged that their leaders approved these actions. And many conservatives are saying essentially, "hey, it worked--therefore it was justified!" (Apparently many religious conservatives fall into this group, too.)

It seems to me that most people want to paint their own side as bright white and their opponents as totally black. The trouble is, life doesn't always work out that way. As a Christian, I believe we are all fallen people, living in a fallen, damaged world. Even the best of us fail at times, and at the other end of the spectrum there are people who are almost completely evil, doing good about as often as the best do wrong. Most of us land somewhere between. And one result of this situation is that sometimes things are not "black and white" with a clear choice. Sometimes you look at the available options and none is completely white, all are darker or lighter shades of gray. The principle involved is called "the lesser of two evils." I would even say sometimes it may be three or four evils, or more. All you can do is try for the one that is the least black, as far as you can tell. I have had a few times in my life that I had to make that sort of decision, on a small scale--nothing of any national importance or significance--and I am glad that I did not have to make any such choices involving life or death for other people. I am very glad I was not in a position in government having to make the choices about interrogating prisoners.

I do not agree with those who call the "enhanced interrogation" a good thing; I think it is an ugly thing. But I can see that it may have been necessary, or seemed necessary at the time. That still does not make it a good thing, and I think we need to recognize this. On the other side, those who did not have to make such decisions themselves need to show a little more humility and not be so self-righteous in condemning others. If they were in the same position with the same responsibilities, they might make the same choice. And if there really are some in elected office who did know about the matter, kept quiet until the uproar started, and then joined the chorus of outrage: these may be the worst of all.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

"This is broken"

A few days ago my wife found a video of a conference presentation called "This Is Broken." It was pretty funny, showing all kinds of things people do--signs, policies, instructions--that don't really make sense. It seems there was a website with this title, now moved to another, focusing on "good experience" in business-to-customer relations. Their conferences are geared to helping businesses keep from making stupid mistakes that can drive customers away. But it's gotten me thinking about the brokenness in people, and in our society.

There is a school of thought that everybody is basically good, and if they just get their external problems fixed--poverty, lack of education, poor housing, etc.--everybody will get along fine. In the construction field, where I spent over twenty years of my work life, this attitude translates into "If everybody in the skilled trades is properly trained and licensed, everything will be done right." Well, over the last twenty years I've seen way too much shoddy work done by supposedly licensed tradesmen (not to mention all the car accidents seen and heard of caused by licensed drivers). The sad truth is, people do not always do what they know they should do, on the job and in the car and in a lot of other places, too. In fact, in all areas of life, the vast majority of people fail at times to even live up to their own standards, let alone anybody else's. And it's not just limited to the moral issues; none of us is a smart as we like to think, or as competent as we think we are. (The real problem with Big Government and Big Business is that nobody is really competent to run them!) We really are "broken."

Christianity and Judaism are the only religions that understand this. They teach that man was created good, but fell from that state and now is at best mixed--good and bad mingled in each person. We are now "broken," to borrow the term used in that video, and even the best of us cannot be counted on to do right all the time. And some are so broken they do wrong most of the time--from the petty criminals to the Hitlers, Stalins, and other monsters.

The problem is, most of us do not know and do not accept the fact that we are "broken." We go our merry way, leaving trails of misdeeds of various kinds and extents behind us. But we are, and we need healing. The Good News of Christianity is that God chose not to leave us in our brokenness, but to make a way for our healing. That does not mean the healing is instantaneous--almost all Christians do and say stupid and wrong things, because we are still somewhat broken even if we are on the right road to the healing. Some take longer on the road than others, some make little progress, and some of us take some pretty strange detours. And the healing is not forced on us; we have to recognize our need and accept it, which comes hard for many people. But God created us to have free will, and has chosen to respect our free will even when we abuse it by doing wrong.

So we as individuals are broken; the society and culture we live in are broken; our government and institutions, including our churches, are all to varying degrees broken. The best thing we have in all of this is the hope of healing, but we must put our hope and our trust in God, not in some broken person, party, or institution.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Doing or Being

Three of the four gospels tell the story of the rich young ruler who came to Jesus and asked, "What can I do to have eternal life?" Most who read the story focus on his backing off when Jesus told him to "Sell all you have and give to the poor, and come, follow me." His riches are seen as the sticking point. I am not so sure that is all of the story.

I think we see here two different approaches to "eternal life"--man's, and God's. Matthew quotes the young man as saying, "What excellent and perfectly and essentially good deed must I do..."(Matthew 19:16, Amplified NT)--and I'm afraid he meant, "What ONE good thing can I do (and have it over with and get on with the rest of my life.)" And Jesus' answer boils down to, "Get rid of your stuff, and come hang out with me." These are two totally different approaches, one based on actions and hoops to be jumped through, and one based on an ongoing relationship.

Years ago I read that the natural state of fallen man is legalism. It is, so to speak, the default position. You don't even have to be a Christian to be a legalist--I've seen vegetarians and environmentalists show the same attitude over their convictions. Human beings are constantly setting up codes of behavior (all too often, for others to follow--which was at the heart of Jesus' criticism of the Pharisees). It is typical of religious man to want things he can DO to show how good he is and be approved, whether it's natives sacrificing the chief's daughter to keep the volcano from erupting all over their village or the Pharisee in Jesus' parable bragging to God about how much he did--or Bob Girard's description of the good church member in "Brethren, Hang Loose":

"I found myself measuring individual spiritual growth by some of the same outward standards I had deplored in the established churches:
--how they were picking up the "language"
--whether they would pray in public
--regularity of attendance
--how many of the church's activities they involved themselves in
--availability to the organization
--agreement with the pastor
All the marks of a "truly involved" churchman." "Brethren, Hang Loose" p.31 [the italics were Bob's, not mine]

The thing is, you can jump through the hoops, conform to the expectations outwardly, reap all of the rewards of status in the church and public approval--and still be a sinner in the eyes of God. The truth is, outward religious practices do not reliably result in changed lives--all too often they result in people acting one way in church on Sunday and acting just like everybody else they know the rest of the week--sometimes even worse if they think they can keep it a secret.

So what do we do? Jesus Himself said, "Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart." It isn't about what you do, it's about what you are. This runs through both the Old and New Testaments. The prophets kept telling the people that fasting and keeping the festivals was no good if they oppressed the poor the next day--"I desire mercy, and not sacrifice" was only one of many examples. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus expanded to the reach of the Law to the inner thought life, not just the outward actions. The lists of qualifications for church leadership that Paul gave to Timothy and Titus do not say anything about specific "deeds"--they are all character qualities. The "fruit of the Spirit" from Galatians 5 are all character qualities, not actions.

Yes, these character qualities are going to produce actions, sometimes the same actions that the "religious" types perform. But God is not that interested in the actions for their own sake, but the motivation of the heart behind them. The real difference is between a person who puts on a mask on Sunday and takes it off when the spotlight blinks off, and a person who is who he is, 24/7/365.

But how do you know which is which? It is not easy, especially in our modern fragmented society, with no more front porches, little neighborhood interaction, and even very little interaction between Christians once they're away from the church building. It takes time and proximity, spending lives together, not just looking at the back of someone's head on Sunday morning.

Roughly forty years ago there were some efforts to deal with this issue, some called the "renewal movement," some in the "Jesus people," some reflected in the book "Body Life" by Ray Steadman, some in Bob Girard's "Brethren, Hang Loose!". The term "emerging" or "emergent" church has been big in recent years--it was in use then to describe what was going on. There were variations, but much of it boiled down to restoring community in church life--people living their lives together in Christ, not just sitting in pews on Sunday morning. My wife and I were part of this movement as young adults.

So what happened? A lot of it faded away. One church we were part of dwindled to nothing because some of the men in leadership failed to love their co-workers. Others got distracted by new trends--the "discipling" movement, the "praise and worship" movement (and accompanying "worship wars"), the "Toronto blessing" and following "outpourings" and "next big things."

As I said, "emerging" churches have been hot for the past few years. A lot of the things they say remind me of what happened before, some do not. But already I am beginning to see some signs of fading. A church here in Indianapolis that we were part of for a couple of years shows signs of this drift already. A church in Cincinnati that our Indianapolis congregation tried to use as a pattern has drifted even farther, and seems to have ceased growing.

There's been some stir this past month over Michael Spenser's essay "The Coming Evangelical Collapse" in the Christian Science Monitor (first published in three posts in his blog "Internet Monk." He didn't claim Evangelicals will disappear totally, but thinks they will lose half their numbers, much of their funding, and their societal clout (Michael is a Southern Baptist, by the way, and seems quite committed to them). I think I see some of the same things that concern him (I blogged last year about rural churches having an appearance of strength without the substance).

The difference between Michael and me, I guess, is that I see some hope that this collapse is not merely a human thing. Back in January Frank Viola posted one of his old messages on his blog, "Reimagining Church," from a passage in Hebrews: "He [God] takes away the first that He may establish the second." Frank traced this pattern in God's dealing with His people through history. Jesus said in the opening of John 15: "I am the True Vine, and my Father is the Vinedresser. Any branch in me that does not bear fruit He takes away...." I think we are going to see some deadwood removed in the coming years, so that God can do something else. I'm afraid the Evangelical church is going to collapse because God has already given it two wake-up calls and most of them kept on in their own happy little rut. And while there may be some things lost that we may miss, my main concern is to be part of what God is doing, and to be the person He wants me to be.

Friday, February 27, 2009


If you dig around in the archives of this blog, my second post, on April 18, 2007, was on "Authority and Respect." I don't want to repeat exactly what I said there, but lately I've been thinking about a related issue--trust. To a certain extent our current financial meltdown has been described as a lack of trust--trust between banks, trust in the investment system (a lot of people trusted Bernie Madoff, and got burned for it) trust in the auto companies, trust(or lack of it) in various institutions of our current society. The way the stock market has trended downward for nearly two months now may well indicate that investors do not put a whole lot of trust in the ability of our government to improve things.

I'm inclined to think of "trust" as being "applied respect." When a person or company or other entity has earned your respect, you are more willing to do business with them or work with them or rely on them. Some people do trust more easily than others--after all, there are some people who do buy the Brooklyn Bridge! Others are more cautious (I'm usually--not always, but usually-- one of the more cautious ones). Either extreme can cause problems.

But when you have trusted someone and they let you down in some way--cheated you, didn't do what they said they would do, lied to you, whatever the shortcoming--trust is broken. And it generally isn't that easy to fix. Because when trust is broken, respect dies too. And it will be harder to restore damaged respect than it was to gain it in the first place. Also, the more the guilty party whines about "You don't trust me!" the more the injured party is reminded of what happened when they trusted that person.

But what about forgiveness (for Christians, anyway)? Well, we have to be careful to distinguish between a hurtful action and its consequences, and between forgiveness and repentance. Forgiveness does not remove consequences; when we come to the cross our sins are forgiven, but the consequences of them in our lives remain: broken relationships, physical problems (just because an alcoholic comes to Christ and stays sober doesn't mean he is necessarily free from the risk of cirrhosis of the liver), financial problems, legal problems (just because Christ forgives a murderer doesn't mean he will not face prison or execution for his crime). Repentance, on the other hand, is really a necessary condition for forgiveness. It is more than regret or sorrow (some people are only sorry they got caught!); it is a regret to the point that you reject the behavior and resolve not to do it anymore. The Greek word used for "repent" in the New Testament actually means "to turn"--essentially to turn away from or turn around and go the other direction. It means there is going to be a change in the way you behave. But if there is no repentance...why should you expect forgiveness--or be trusted again?

Back to the current situation today: there is plenty of blame to go around for violating trust, from debtors and creditors to investors and brokers to the highest levels of government. And there are plenty of consequences for all of us; even those who didn't abuse credit will suffer from the loss of the value of their homes, from the economic conditions, and other consequences of the current meltdown. But unless there is repentance--at the individual level, the corporate level, the governmental level-- it is going to take a long, long time to restore trust in our society and economy. And until trust is restored, things cannot get very much better.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Modest Proposal

I know I said when I started this blog that I wasn't going to say much about politics. But this particular subject has been on my mind for a while, and it really is sort of bi-partisan--it digs at both parties equally, not just one. So let's run it up the flagpole and have some fun seeing if anybody salutes.

I am a lifelong history buff, and one thing I read years ago, can't even remember where or who wrote it, was that the American Revolution was essentially a quarrel between the American colonists and the "governing class" of Great Britain--the nobility, the professional politicians, the Members of Parliament, and the dregs and shirt-tail relations and castoffs of all the preceding who staffed what bureaucracy the British had at that time. Well, as I look at the current scene, I think there is a quarrel building between the American people and our own home-grown governing class--the politicians, members of Congress, their staffs, the bureaucrats of the various agencies, etc. When you look at the approval ratings for Congress, the indictments and criminal convictions of members of Congress and governors, the proposed laws and regulations that make no sense to ordinary folks, and the rest of what's going on, people in much of the country are getting disgusted with the whole thing. And I have an idea that may not totally fix it, but maybe it would help.

I think it is time for a new U.S. capital. Washington, D.C. was good enough when the whole country was east of the Mississippi, and thinly settled once you got away from the coast; but that situation changed over a century ago. And people in Washington have been getting farther and farther out of touch with the mass of the American people.

I suggest we build a new capital city, say out around where Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri come together. That would be a nice central location. But location in itself is not the whole answer. How do we get from here to there? LET 'EM WALK!!! Really, I do think that! Everybody currently working in Washington for the Federal government should have to walk, or maybe ride a bicycle, to the new capital. They can ship their stuff, but their bodies need the walk; not only will it be good exercise, but it will get them out among the people they serve for a while, and give them a chance to get acquainted again. The ones who've only lived in the big cities need to see just how much open space there still is out here in the heartland, and some of those who write regulations should have to spend the time among the people their regulations affect. Members of the House and Senate should have to start by walking their own state--whatever direction is the longest. It really won't disrupt the operations of government that much--departures can be scheduled so there aren't too many on the road at any one time, and there are such things as cell phones and fax machines to enable keeping in touch (wouldn't do them any harm to find out how spotty cell phone reception can be in the rural parts--or how far it can be to a Starbucks or a WiFi hotspot). And if anybody, especially Representatives and Senators, is too old and decrepit physically to do it (and they're welcome to take all the time they need--the more time among the people, the better) then maybe it is time to step aside and retire. A little fresh blood won't hurt.

And when they get there, let's do things a little differently. Washington wasn't built in a day, nor even a year. So let's only build enough office space for, say, five or ten staff people per member of Congress--to answer the phone and the mail and so on. That means the members of Congress, House and Senate, will have to do their own research and write their own legislation instead of having staffers write it. And speaking of legislation, let's require each Representative and Senator to to write out a copy of every bill, in his own handwriting, and present it before he can vote on it. That will have two results: it will guarantee that they have personally read the bill before they vote on it, and it will force them to keep the laws they vote on short, simple, and uncomplicated. It might also make them think more in terms of getting the other two branches to enforce the existing laws so they don't have to write new ones. It might even keep them busy enough they won't have time for dining with lobbyists, going on junkets, and getting into legal trouble. And anybody who feels too overworked is welcome to go back home and let somebody else try it for a while.

But what about the Fourth Estate, the Press? Let them walk, too. New Yorkers and the media have come up with the expression "fly-over country" to describe where the rest of us live. If any members of the current Washington press corps want press credentials for the new capital city, they should have to take an extended itinerary that meanders through all fifty states--they REALLY need to get back in touch with the people! Come to think of it, that would probably be the best route for the President, too--although I wouldn't blame him if he chose to walk separately from the Press. (As for the New Yorkers, they'd learn a lot more respect for the rest of us if we just quit shipping them food--let them live for a year or so on what they can grow within their own city limits.)

But what do we do with the old capital in Washington? It's got a lot of monuments, and we can turn the old government buildings into museums or tear them down and build any new monuments we'll want on their sites. Most government employees don't live in the city itself anymore; they live in the suburbs, out in Virginia and Maryland. And the people who actually do live in D.C. can have the rest of it themselves--as long as they pay for it themselves--no federal subsidies for anything beyond the monuments and new museums. We'll need that money for the new capital.

One more thing: to keep the new capital from ending up just as bad as the old one, let's require The Walk after every new election, for all elected officials and political appointees, and maybe every three or four years for the career bureaucrats in the agencies. After all, when Washington was first built, they all had to travel there by the conveyances available at that time--horseback, carriage, stagecoach or sailing ship. That helped keep them in touch with ordinary folks; even the early railroads didn't allow much distancing from the population. Cars and planes have done a lot to enable the governing class to insulate themselves off from the governed.

I know this is going to be hard to pull off. Some of it might be possible to accomplish by rules changes and executive orders, other parts might even take Constitutional amendments. I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for this to happen, but it's been fun thinking about it. And just maybe, if enough of us did think about it and talk about it, the powers that be might get wind of it and start to take a hint or two.