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Your kids are running (around) Washington

Your kids are running (around) Washington
© Greg Nash

I miss seeing long lines of school buses along bustling streets in the nation’s capital. I miss the sounds of giggly schoolgirls in plaid skirts and white blouses filing past museums and monuments. There are very few volleyball players on the small stretch of sand not far from the National Mall. 

But fear not. Children are running our country now. But their games are getting dangerous, and it may be time to pick them up early from camp and bring them home for a national time out.

Let’s look at the behavior.

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President TrumpDonald TrumpVirginia GOP gubernatorial nominee acknowledges Biden was 'legitimately' elected Biden meets with DACA recipients on immigration reform Overnight Health Care: States begin lifting mask mandates after new CDC guidance | Walmart, Trader Joe's will no longer require customers to wear masks | CDC finds Pfizer, Moderna vaccines 94 percent effective in health workers MORE urged fellow Republican Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, to “find” enough votes to overturn his defeat in an extraordinary one-hour phone call Saturday that some legal scholars described as a flagrant abuse of power and a potential criminal act. 

The Washington Post obtained a recording of the conversation in which Trump alternately berated Raffensperger, tried to flatter him, begged him to act and threatened him with vague criminal consequences if the secretary of state refused to pursue his false claims, at one point warning that Raffensperger was taking “a big risk.”

The week camp schedule started with a new Congress convening Sunday with its members in open warfare over a manufactured electoral dispute that robs all of us of civility and democracy. Instead of welcoming new public servants, the incoming members were treated to ugly rhetorical assaults, angry masked faces and conflict akin to that of any third world country.

“Division” is far too polite a word for what’s happening in Washington, D.C. today. Civil war within and across the political parties has spilled out into the public, and it is polluting the air just as a pandemic fills the air with deadly germs. 

Bitterness, anger and sadness are the themes at this gathering. Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGohmert says Jan. 6 mob attack on Capitol not an 'armed insurrection' Meghan McCain: Greene 'behaving like an animal' GOP Rep. Turner to lead House push to address military sexual assault MORE (D-Calif.) was narrowly elected to a fourth term as House speaker in a party in which no one is truly popular. GOP senators are lashing out at each other over a revolt by a dozen members who remain hell bent on challenging the electoral tally of one or more states, shameless attacking the outcome of a national election result. One member of the House is mourning the loss of his 25-year-old son. 

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Another member, Pennsylvania House Rep. Mike Reese, passed away on Saturday at the age of 42 weeks after contracting coronavirus.

Meanwhile, our leaders are fighting over the wrong things, and the nation’s capital is in the throes of potential violence and unrest, or just hours upon hours of screaming and yelling about an electoral outcome that is already clear. And caught in the middle of the flying rhetorical bullets are we, the victims of broken politics and failed leadership. 

The victims are all around us — in hospital beds, in morgues and cemeteries for 340,000 souls, in the fear of 20 million infected Americans, in the tired faces of health care workers and in the pure exhaustion of families trying to feed each other, teach children online and delay, again, plans to hug anyone.

The smart humans delivered the ultimate weapon against COVID — the vaccine.  But without leaders to direct medical troops and strategize about how to distribute the vaccines, the virus is still winning.

So, what can be done to bring sanity back to the country?

We must adapt. It is 2021. A new president will be sworn in on January 20. Give him and the adults he brings to the table a chance to govern. Read what former senior officials from administrations of both political parties had to say:

“The time for questioning the results has passed; the time for the formal counting of the electoral college votes, as prescribed in the Constitution and statute, has arrived.” 

Second, reign in your representatives. Tell your elected leaders that you expect them to behave rationally, and with respect and civility. They are the role models for our children.

I miss the real children — the little ones with their parents roaming around the bug exhibit at the National Museum of History and the nice bug experts teaching kids to value nature. I miss the big elephant in the lobby, reminding us how small we are. I miss the word “history,” which used to mean something that happened more than a week ago.

But maybe, just maybe, we can put the leaderless children back on the bus this week and send them home for a lesson in how to treat each other. One can only hope.

Tara D. Sonenshine is former U.S. under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs