Sitting in on the Monday session of the U.S. Senate was one thing. Getting in was quite another. Let me explain.
You’d think that watching Senators McConnell (R-KY) and Schumer (D-NY) engage in a parliamentary chess match would take the cake when it comes to the politically unexpected. And don’t get me wrong—it was a sight to see. From one “unanimous consent” motion to another, then to one objection after another, only to be followed by a number of long-winded speeches that lasted till near midnight (we didn’t stay that long!), the late Monday session of June 19 was a lesson in the power of words and rules to wage the war you think needs fought.
What took the cake, however, were three words by a Capitol worker just a few hours earlier as I was getting information on how to get into the Senate’s session. They were more unexpected than anything said from the Senate floor that evening.
We had just finished a tour of the Capitol, and while Julie and Brooke went to the café, I decided to get some passes to the session that evening. Of course, I needed directions to either Sen. Ernst’s or Sen. Grassley’s office, so I thought asking the red-shirted worker behind the desk just under the archway in front of me would be a good start. I got in line, and with only one group of three guys in front of me, this won’t take too long I thought to myself.
Sure enough, the guys in front of me just had a simple question: Where can we get passes to the Senate session tonight? Ah, same as me, so I thought I’d listen in and gain some additional information in case things had changed.
The Capitol worker asked if they were citizens, and the spokesperson for the three guys responded, “Only me. These two are internationals. How do I get passes for them?”
That’s when I heard it with my own two ears; saw it with my own two eyes. She looked at him, and in a definitely lower tone, simply encouraged him to avoid the normal protocol because it would “be too much work for all three of you. Just go down the down the hall there and ask for three international passes, and don’t even take these two with you. Tell them you just need three. You know, just trick ’em.”
What? “Just trick ’em”? Did I really just hear a Capitol employee, responsible to help with correct information, encourage a citizen with an incorrect, even deceptive, response? Did I actually hear and see a government employee shortcut security protocol for what was easier and more convenient? I was so stunned I forgot I was next, but I was quickly brought back into reality as she looked at me and asked, “Can I help you?”
“Uh, yes, I was wondering what building houses the Senators’ offices? I was hoping to get a pass to the Senate session tonight.”
“Are you a citizen?” she inquired.
“Yes, from Iowa.”
“Too bad you’re not an international. It’d be a lot easier that way,” she asserts, chuckling, even motioning with her eyes and head to the guys just before me. “You’ll have to go to the Russell building. That’s where you’ll find your Senator and get your pass.”
I thanked her, walking away astonished at what I had witnessed. Admittedly, I’m not “in the know” on all that goes into the various kinds of session passes. I’m not up to speed on the who, what, where, when, why, and how of securing a seat to watch our Republic at work. But I do know what I heard and saw, and it seems more than odd that a Capitol worker would encourage a fellow American to “just trick ’em.” Maybe it was all in good fun; perhaps there’s a legitimate “back door” and all is on the up-and-up. But my guess is there’s not. My guess is what I saw and heard first-hand was just one of a thousand small reasons that, in America, trust is low and skepticism high.
That’s where my mind went right away. That’s where my thoughts drifted instantly. Even now, as I recount and reflect through this post, a hundred and one questions race through my brain, questions I can’t fully articulate much less answer. Like I said, I’m not a politically savvy citizen. I’m just a normal guy wondering what’s going on when security measures are more like security suggestions. No wonder we’re in a mess in more ways than one—on multiple levels we’ve replaced “This is the way, walk ye in it” with “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”
Yes, it was just a simple conversation about Senate session passes. But perhaps it was more indicative of a deeper issue in our country: rules aren’t rules, they’re merely ideas. Boundaries aren’t boundaries, they’re just guidelines. It seems that the rule of law and power of policy doesn’t matter any longer. Follow them if you feel you want to, but if not, help yourself and make up your own. Do what you want. Even just trick ’em if you must. Like I’ve said before on multiple times, we’re so fiercely independent in this country that we’ve become insubordinate. Our success has bled us of any sense of submission to authority, especially God’s.
Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, maybe I’m not. Perhaps this is just a humorous anecdote, or perhaps it’s actually a horrifying act of irresponsibility. Some will see it as three words with no consequence, others as three words with grave importance. Underneath it all, however, one thing is quite clear: we need a “capitol” improvement.