During the seven years my family spent in public housing, my buddies and I had some of our greatest adventures in a wooded area we called “The Pasture.” We had an opportunity to play war and jungle games because there were unlimited hiding places and if we had a moment of bravery, we could cross the creek and never be found.
Perhaps our thrill was to sneak a potato, an egg or two, and a chunk of Spam from our parent’s kitchen and cook an extravagant omelet. The rich people never had something so good.
One cool, windblown Saturday in November, Percy and I went into the wilderness for an afternoon of fun and food. As we built the fire, somehow a spark managed to touch a pile of brush and within seconds, so it seemed, the entire pasture was ignited. Ten acres were aflame before we managed to escape. Fire trucks, police cars, T.V. cameras and hundreds of spectators quickly rushed to the urban inferno.
What happened that frightening day could happen to our country. I read about or listen to words, provocative words, that ignite a firestorm of pain and even eruptions of social fury here at home and abroad.
My great regret is that, unlike the gathering around the fire in “The Pasture,” the people of our country have grown accustomed to the incendiary words of Washington.
If the sophomoric fighting continues to paralyze the Congress, historians will look at us as the loutish body that burned down the greatest empire in the history of the universe.
Emanuel Cleaver, II
Member of Congress