One summer day, I'd say it was twenty years ago, I was alone in D.C. with no place to go and no promises to keep, as the song goes. After wandering around the Mall, I found myself walking up the broad and lovely steps of the Capitol building. Instead of going straight on up and into the rotunda itself, I went around the side, to the wings, where I found an open door--a side entrance. In I went. Unchallenged, I went up a staircase and began wandering down the corridors of power. It was, I admit, a bit of a heady feeling. Here I was, Joe Average America, freely exploring the haunts of folks who are on the nightly news, the arbiters of the American Dream. I felt as though I, too, was one of the Great Elected Upper Crust.
Incredibly, I continued to rubberneck my way through the building, going in and out of doors, up and down stairways as though I owned the place, as though, as an American taxpayer, I belonged here as much as the suited pols or their assistants I occasionally ran into. After an hour or so, I exited through another side door feeling as though I had, more than any other common tourist that day, experienced the business end of the Republic.
Oh, what a difference a couple of decades makes. Yesterday, as I repeated my walk around the Mall and again ended up at the steps of Capitol Hill, I was met by the scene pictured above: police were everywhere and streets cordoned off with big warning signs. Now, instead of being able to randomly visit the Congressperson of your choice, the voter must join a tightly controlled group of other voters/tourists and be led around by the nose by young, summer-job tour guides. Such a sad development. It left me with the feeling that our freedoms had been necessarily diminished, that the soul of the country had been blocked off, our access to ourselves and our freedoms painfully constricted.
Douglas Arvidson is a past winner of the WICE/Paris Transcontinental International Short Story competition. His short fiction has been published in Paris, Prague, and in literary magazines in the United States and he was recently invited to be a staff writer for the Prague Revue, a cutting-edge, online literary journal (http://bit.ly/1mMT6ZC). The novels in his fantasy series, The Eye of the Eye of Stallion, include The Face in Amber, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, and A Drop of Wizard's Blood. His new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, was selected as a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year national awards and as a finalist in three categories in the 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards: Action Adventure Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. It has become part of the pantheon of Pacific literature and is now included in school literature programs. Brothers of the Fire Star is an adventure story set in the Pacific during World War II and concerns two boys of different races and cultures who escape the island of Guam in a small sailboat when the Japanese army invades. They must then struggle to survive as they master the secrets of the ancient Pacific navigators. Appropriate for young adults as well as adult readers, Brothers of the Fire Star is available on Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com (http://amzn.to/1j3axVk) and Crossquarter.com. Visit the author's website: douglasarvidson.com