Everyone gets to be an expert on at least one thing. Everything gets to know more than others about something about the thing that they do day in and day out. If you are a parent, you get to be an expert in your child. If you are a teacher, you get to have the last word in your subject. If you are a doctor, lawyer, scientist, whatever — you get to have the upper hand in discussions related to your profession. This is what makes conversations interesting, because we all bring what we are best at to the table. It’s why I like to have friends from all walks of life, because I learn things from all of them.
There is, of course, an exception to this rule: politics. We live in a democracy, and thus everyone gets to have a say in what is happening in Washington, gets to have a seat at the lofty table of Right and Wrong in the political realm. And for good reason! Not only do we all (hopefully!) vote in elections, thus having a say in who is running this country, but all it takes is the reading of 2 good articles you saw on Facebook and you are an EXPERT. Forget the fact that most people in our lives here in DC have devoted their professional existence to studying politics and examining its minutia (on both sides of the aisle)– you read 2 good listicles on BuzzFeed. By all means, continue.*
This is a unique frustration of people who live in DC, whose jobs and lives ebb and flow with votes and sessions, political happenings and elections. I want you to know that mixed in with all the squirrely sorts in this city, there are good people who are good at their jobs. They devote all of their time to this profession, but outside of the Beltway, they can’t dare to claim expertise above the average morning-news watching American, or they look like a Washington snob. A removed and aloof politico out of touch with the country. And so the abuse rains down.
Which brings me to August Recess. I was driving home the other day and listening to the radio, and I heard something that had my blood boiling. Some glib radio host was ranting about Congress, and ended by declaring that they were all about to leave for their “6 week vacation” of August Recess, upon which all the hosts started hating on those lazy politicians and their staff who get 6 weeks off.
I might have yelled an obscenity at the radio.
Because August Recess? August Recess is what all of those who love political staffers live for. And while a 6 week vacation would be nice, people still go to work every day, but that work stays a little more defined to regular hours. My friend Anna and I have been texting for weeks about how August was coming, and if we could just hold on, we would no longer be Political Widows. We would get to sometimes see our husbands during the week. The work days that are often endless, having James walking home late into the night, will shrink back to encompass the normal 9 hour workday. During August Recess, everyone in DC takes a breath. The tourists have trickled off, the school groups haven’t started, interns go home, and work is manageable. Senators and Congressman head back home to reconnect with their constituents, and their staffers get to come home each day for dinner and reconnect with their families. August Recess keeps this city sane, and allows us to enjoy a little work-life balance that much of the country views as a right year round.
August Recess has me feeling like summer is really starting, even as the rest of the country is kicking it to the curb and looking towards full.
This past weekend, we got just a glimpse of the joy that will be August. We made breakfast sandwiches, played chess, and hosted a cookout to celebrate James’ birthday. I made peach pie and we ordered pretzels from DC Pretzel Bakery. We rode bikes around the city, wandered Easter Market, and had some lazy times around out home. I want more of this.
And I will hopefully get more, because August Recess is upon us.
*Please know that I am not mocking people who genuinely try to follow politics and invest substantial time and energy into trying to understand and engage with what’s happening. I think we all have a duty to care about what our nation is doing. What I am deriding is the all-to-common Internet expert, nourished by opinionated blogs, closed to hearing from actual experience and limiting their research to cherry-picked articles that agree with them. I think a little humility and openness is in order when we approach things that aren’t our specialty… and since mine is French Literature, you can bet that I pretty much never get to be the specialist in real life scenarios.