When I went to the University of Minnesota I used to play on an enormous sandpile on the north side of the 35W bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis yesterday.
The bridge was in use then, but you could only use it to cross the Mississippi from the University to Downtown or vice-versa. The section of 35W just north of bridge was still under construction and there was this enormous sandpile down on the uncompleted freeway between University Ave and Fourth Street. It was as high as the bottom of the overpass, a perfect cone of sand, like an enormous Hershey's Kiss.
We had some great midnight parties down there, featuring beer and one fearsome game of "King of the Hill". Half...ok, fully...drunk we would try to climb that mountain of sand to become the King of 35W. If you have ever tried, in an inebriated state, to climb a mountain of sand..well, believe me, it ain't easy.
You start out with all the best intentions, of course, but after three steps you realize your bare feet have disappeared and you are up to your ankles in trouble. It is slog, slog, slog from there on up to the top, to achieve your Pyrrhic victory.
I lived less than a block from that sandpile, in an apartment on 8th and University. We knew the cops would bust us if we hauled the keg down to the sandpile, so we kept it back in the apartment and brought the beer down in pitchers and plastic gallon jugs. We would fill our beer cups at the base of that sandpile and head up. By the time you got to the top...if you got to the top...your beer was gone. Spilled, most of it. Wasted.
Actually, it was usually gone about halfway up, at which point you'd say, "Dammit! I'm out of beer!" and tumble back down. You had a choice to make. You could continue on to the summit and face a fight with some other drunken yahoo and possibly become "King of the Sandpile", or you could go back down for more beer. We would generally opt for the beer. We were college kids, and we had our priorities straight.
We don't anymore.
We are in charge now. Today's leaders are of my own generation, which I once thought showed such promise in those days when we played on that sandpile. But somewhere on the climb up that mountain of sand we lost our principles, lost our priorities and failed to live up to our promise.
Our "King of the Hill", who was supposed to be the best one of us, turned out to be George W. Bush, the worst. And the rest of the "leaders" from my generation have turned out to be nearly as bad, Republican and Democrat alike. Lousy. Every one of them.
"Leaders" they call themselves, the ones who have allowed the infrastructure of "The Homeland" to fall into such disrepair and led us to the devastating consequences witnessed yesterday.
And why? So they could sell their souls to lobbyists and play their little 'Earmark Games'?
To chase some Pyrrhic "Victory" in a sandpile in the Middle East, a sandpile that did NOT attack us on September 11, 2001, while allowing the levees in New Orleans to weaken and break? While allowing the arteries and veins which carry the lifeblood of this country to crumble and fall?
I was just reading that the cost to fully repair and modernize the bridges in this country would be around $ 9 billion per year for the next twenty years, or around $ 180 billion dollars.
The War in That Big Sandpile in the Middle East is currently costing, so they tell us (and they usually only tell us the half of it), $ 2 billion per day.
$ 9 billion dollars is four and a half days in Iraq. Four and one half days.
Too bad we already threw a cool trillion or two down the hole in that outhouse over there.
We could have fixed all the bridges, all the dams, and got one helluva good start on the highways.
Nice work there, America's leaders.
You Kings and Queens of The Hill.