While on the national mall with a friend of mine, we asked a park ranger what the penalty for swimming in the reflecting pool was. He said that no one must ever break the reflection of the Washington Monument. Then he pointed to the top of the monument. "See those things at the top?" He said. "Those aren't windows. Those are eyes. What did you think happened to Washington's body when he died? Where do you think they got the monument? You dare not wake up Washington. He will vaporize you with his laser-beam eyes."
Well, I couldn't believe that, so we asked another park ranger, and he said, "Laser beams? Hardly. The monument is the spike on the helmet of a giant robotic George Washington, buried below the national mall, and if you break the reflection in the pool, he rises out of the ground, grabs you, and throws you into Chesapeake Bay."
But neither of these men had ever actually seen anyone swim in the pool, or even wade in it, so I could not believe them.
So I jumped into the pool.
It wasn't very deep at all. No sense wasting water on a pool that nobody's supposed to swim in. I splashed around for a bit.
Everyone just stood there, and stared. Nobody said a word. A few people crossed themselves. Ah, but what did they know?
The heavens darkened.
The wind began to blow. Lightning flashed. Thunder rumbled. I heard a huge thumping from behind me. I turned. There was the statue of old Abe himself, towering over me. I turned to the Washington monument. It had vanished. There was an angular, stone effigy of George Washington that stood before me. I looked to my right. There was the statue of Jefferson glaring down at me. I looked to my left. The statue of Martin Luther King Jr. was there with is arms akimbo.
None of them moved.
"Gee," I said, "All I did was wade in the reflecting pool. Is that as disrespectful as what those bozos in Congress are doing?"
As one, they turned their heads towards the capitol. Then they turned back to me. As one, they said, "THE SEAL IS BROKEN. YOU HAVE UNLEASHED US. WHAT IS YOUR BIDDING, CITIZEN?"
"Oh, uh..." I hadn't thought they would do anything besides stomp me. "I would like you to figure out how to fix this country," I said. An unselfish request. Nothing wrong with that.
"GET SOME MORE SLAVES TO DO THE SCUTWORK," said Jefferson. "WE NEED TO BUILD A STRONG ECONOMY WITH MINIMUM EXPENSE."
"EXCUSE ME?" said Lincoln and King in unison. "DID WE GET SHOT FOR NOTHING?"
"I LIKE THAT YOU STIRRED UP TROUBLE," said Jefferson, "BUT WE NEED A STRONG ECONOMY."
"STIRRED UP TROUBLE?" said Lincoln. "STIRRED UP NOTHING! IT WAS YOUR PEOPLE IN THE SOUTH WHO DECIDED TO SECEDE, AND ALL I DID WAS GET ELECTED!"
"YOU WANTED TO END SLAVERY!"
"I THOUGHT YOU SAID IT WAS AN EVIL!"
"A NECESSARY EVIL —"
"AND THEN YOU DIDN'T FREE ANY OF YOUR SLAVES WHEN YOU DIED, MR. DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. MAKE UP YOUR DAMN MIND."
"YOU WOULD HAVE CHANGED YOUR MIND WHEN YOU GOT OLD IF YOU HADN'T BEEN SHOT!" said Jefferson.
"I WOULD HAVE STAYED MY OWN COURSE!" said Lincoln. "I WANTED SEGREGATION! I KNEW BLACKS AND WHITES WOULD NEVER GET ALONG —"
"EXCUSE ME?" said King. "WHAT ARE THESE WORDS I HEAR FROM THE GREAT EMANCIPATOR? DID YOU WANT MY PEOPLE TO BE FREE OR NOT?"
"SEGREGATION WOULD HAVE WORKED IF IT HAD BEEN IMPLEMENTED!" said Lincoln. "BLACK COMMUNITIES RULING THEMSELVES. ISN'T THAT THE FREEDOM YOU WANTED AND NEVER GOT?"
"WE TRIED THAT," said King, "AND LOOK WHAT HAPPENED IN CHICAGO! AND TULSA! AND LOS ANGELES! THE WHITE MAN WAS NEVER GOING TO LET US RULE OURSELVES UNLESS WE DEMANDED IT THROUGH THE FORCE OF LAW!"
"MAYBE YOU SHOULD HAVE GONE TO LIBERIA!" said Lincoln.
"THIS IS MY COUNTRY AS WELL AS YOURS, AND I'M NOT LEAVING!" said King. "I'M NOT GOING TO BE SHOVED OUT OF THE WAY, NOT THIS TIME —"
"YOU SEE WHY YOU HAVE TO KEEP THE SLAVES SERVILE?" said Jefferson. "IF YOU GIVE THEM AN INCH, THEY TAKE A MILE!"
"YOU STOLE THE MILES FROM MY PEOPLE!" said King. "YOU STOLE OUR BODIES AND CRUSHED OUR SOULS!"
"LIKE I SAID, SLAVERY IS A NECESSARY EVIL —"
"OH FOR FUCK'S SAKE," said Washington, "THIS SORT OF BICKERING IS WHY I ONLY RAN FOR RE-ELECTION ONCE IN THE FIRST PLACE! ISN'T THERE ANYTHING WE CAN AGREE UPON?"
"WE MIGHT BE ABLE TO," said Lincoln, "IF JEFFERSON HERE IS WILLING TO APOLOGIZE FOR BEING A DAMN HYPOCRITE."
"HOW ELSE WAS I SUPPOSED TO MAKE MONEY IN VIRGINIA?" said Jefferson. "HOW ELSE WAS I SUPPOSED TO BE ANYBODY IF I DIDN'T HAVE SLAVES? HOW ELSE WAS NEW ENGLAND SUPPOSED TO MAKE MONEY WITHOUT THE SLAVE TRADE? IT WAS ALL MOLLASSES TO RUM AND SLAVES, AND WE MADE MONEY HAND OVER FIST!"
"AND YOUR FELLOW SOUTHERNERS CONTINUED TO SHUT OUT THE FREE WHITE WORKING MAN," said Lincoln, "FOR FIFTY YEARS LONGER THAN THEY SHOULD HAVE —"
"THERE YOU GO AGAIN," said King. "NO WONDER RECONSTRUCTION WAS A BUST. YOU DIDN'T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT THE FREE BLACK WORKING MAN."
"I WOULD HAVE DONE BETTER THAN THE CLOWNS WHO SUCCEDED ME —"
"BY FORCING SEGREGATION? DON'T GIVE ME THAT —"
"THE SUN'S COMING OUT," said Washington. "BACK TO YOUR PLACES."
I looked up. The sun was beginning to peek through the clouds once more.
I heard a woosh, and looked around. The statues had gone. The Washington Monument was in its place once more.
Everybody around me coughed and shuffled a bit, looking around in confusion. Then, by ones and twos, they returned to their business.