Guest Column by Tom Purcell
Springtime has arrived in Washington, D.C.
The National Cherry Blossom festival is underway. Some 3,700 cherry trees, given to America by the Japanese in 1912, will soon be in full bloom.
I lived in the D.C. area nearly eight years and always looked forward to this time of year.
Family and friends would visit to see the magnificent trees. With luck the weather would be sunny and warm. We’d laugh and frolic and forget our worries for a little while.
That’s never easy to do in Washington, the land of silly and never-ending political conflict and disagreement.
I still remember an incident that took place in the spring of 1999, when some culprits were caught chopping down cherry trees.
It took a while, but the National Park Service was able to identify the tree-fellers – three beavers, who had decided to construct a dam in the Tidal Basin.
If those beavers were to strike today, those on the political right would blame Antifa and those on the left would blame Trump supporters – and talking heads on cable news channels would point fingers endlessly until the beavers were identified.
The reaction wasn’t much better in 1999.
In a normal city, the beaver situation would have been dealt with swiftly. The beavers would have been quietly trapped in a humane manner, transported to another location and released.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), not well-known for common sense solutions, suggested exactly that.
But no sooner was PETA’s idea floated than beaver experts began crawling out of the woodwork. One said it would be tragic to separate the three beavers, since they were likely from the same family.
Another said you can’t move beavers to a new colony because the new colony would reject the newcomers.
A third expert said that, all things considered, the most humane solution would be to euthanize the beavers.
Boy, did the public react negatively to that suggestion.
That’s because beavers are so cute. Their cuddly television presence clouded the public’s ability to address the problem rationally.
The fact is that if beavers looked more like their pointy-nosed cousins, rats, everyone would have instantly united to protect the district’s beloved cherry trees from the dirty varmints.
Well, the hullabaloo went on for some time before the Park Service finally hired a professional trapper who caught the beavers and carted them off somewhere.
Which brings us, sadly, to 2021.
No outlaw beavers are chewing down cherry trees this Spring, but there are many more serious troubles disturbing the peace and beauty of our nation’s capital.
Partisan conflict and arguing are in full bloom in Congress, but there’s little hope our beloved public servants are going to come up with genuine solutions for the current border crisis or for long-term challenges like our ballooning national debt or healthcare.
Ditto for them permanently fixing big things like our infrastructure or solving any of a dozen other deeply divisive hot issues like policing or voting rights or energy policy.
Democrats and Republicans, now virtually split 50-50 in the House and Senate, have shown for decades they are incapable of fixing the tough problems they often created in the first place.
About the only thing both parties seem to agree on is spending government money they really don’t have on many programs we do not need.
It’s almost as if they think money grows on cherry trees.
Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970’s Childhood,” a humorous memoir available at amazon.com, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc.