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Popsicle sticks, Dixie cups and pipe dreams
by David Farside
Dec 13, 2010 | 1114 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For the last 60 years I have watched legislators float new ideas concerning Social Security, health care, entitlement programs, tax reform, deficit reduction and new immigration policies on the bipartisan political waters of compromise. Meanwhile, the savings and investments of senior citizens erode, the 10-year war in Afghanistan continues, health insurance for all Americans might break the U.S. Treasury and illegal immigrants are still crossing our border by the thousands. All thanks to a Congress that postures with campaign rhetoric, pretending to be champions for all Americans.

This past weekend, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., attempted to re-introduce the Democrats’ Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, known as the DREAM Act, on the Senate floor. Sunday afternoon it was pulled because of lack of support. Originally introduced 10 years ago, it is really an amnesty act providing a conduit for American citizenship for young illegal immigrants who entered the country with their parents before they were 16 years old. They have two options available. One is to serve in the military for two years. The other is to attend college for two years after they have met all of the stringent requirements.

The Republicans argue it will create a massive burden on states, universities and educators. They say the bill could cost up to $12 billion. However, it would cost taxpayers more than $50 billion to send them all back across the border. Actually, I think everyone who graduates from high school, male or female, should commit two years of service to their country or continue their education with the help of government loans, not public handouts. The bill does have its flaws but it is a good indicator why lame duck sessions usually end up at the bottom of a political sewer — similar to my neighbors’ homemade pirate ships.

A few months ago my neighbor was cleaning out his sprinkler system. The gushing water created a tiny lake on his lush green lawn, overflowed down the driveway and, as if realizing its fate, filled the gutter in front of his house.

His two little children, about 5 and 7 years old, were watching with great curiosity. They seemed excited about the newly formed lake in their front yard and quickly searched for some old sticks, empty cans, Frisbees and other stuff. Molding, tying and weaving everything together, they pretended their creations were great pirate ships from the past. They approached the rising tide with extreme caution and a planned strategy. Needless to say, the war on the swelling waves covering the green blades of grass was on.

They proceeded to float their two great armadas down the newly formed miniature canal in the gutter and, of course, argued about which one was the fastest, strongest and most seaworthy. They made funny noises imitating huge cannon blasts and even added some contemporary sounds, like machine guns and soaring fighter jets.

They dropped stones, I mean bombs, on each other’s boats and followed the great pirate ships of imagination down to the end of the block. By that time the war was over and the great power of the roaring, raging water emanating from the lake of the lawn had taken its toll. Both armadas were crushed beyond recognition and with child-like bewilderment they watched everything disappear into the sewer drain at the end of the street.

It reminded me of my childhood when, every summer, the city would clean out the fire hydrants. The water would rush like a river down the street, setting the scene for our great annual neighborhood sea battle.

Starting on Memorial Day, the ice cream man made his rounds. We bought Popsicles, not only for the obvious treat, but for the prized wooden sticks buried deep inside the frozen delicacy.

The Popsicle sticks were tied together to resemble make-believe floating rafts, battleships and, yes, even pirate ships. Empty Dixie cups were converted into sail boats with indestructible masts, constructed with twigs and candy wrappers. We placed our unique vessels on the wild water flowing down the street, fought our war with the same child-like bewilderment and then watched everything float and disappear down the storm drain at the bottom of the hill.

Beginning in January, the lame ducks will fly home replaced by new birds of prey floating on the political waters of imagination. But the struggles of our senior citizens, working poor and unemployed will remain the same. Like the great sea battles we fought with our make-believe ships of hope and survival, their dreams will float away on the same tide of despair they had years ago.

Sometimes, I gaze in child-like bewilderment as our pride, dignity and broken promises are devoured in the legislative tide of corruption. And, like Popsicle sticks and Dixie cups, they are lost in the sea of special interest and consumed in the legislative sewer of political pipe dreams.

David Farside is a Sparks resident and political activist. The polemics of his articles can be discussed at His website is
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