Watching sandcastles wash away

Published 7:35 pm Saturday, April 16, 2016

By Rep. Randy Forbes

Years ago, I was with my family at the beach, sitting several yards back from the water. Ahead of us near the shoreline, two children knelt down, playing in the sand just inches from where the foamy cusp of the waves rescinded back into the ocean.

The boys used red and yellow buckets, packing sand together and flipping them over into small mounds. They were building sandcastles, but mostly they were just fighting over the buckets and hitting each other with their plastic shovels.

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As I watched these boys argue over how high to stack the sand and who was going to use the blue shovel, I could see a wave — much bigger than all the other waves previously — come racing towards the shore. The two boys had no idea what was about to happen and, sure enough, the wave came crashing up over their shoulders and washing away every grain of their sandcastle.

As the wave receded back to the sea, the boys sat staring at each other and the small lumps of sand that remained, and they didn’t say a word. I can imagine what they were thinking, “What happened? Why did we spend so much time fighting over the buckets and shovels that we didn’t even see the wave coming?”

I’ve always thought Washington operates a bit like these two boys — arguing over who gets the shovel without paying attention to the massive waves roaring towards the shoreline.

Americans have watched arguments, spin, sleight of hand tactics, scandals and empty sound bites become the modus operandi for Washington. Government dysfunction keeps getting worse (and along with it, public sentiment towards Washington).

But as Washington fights over buckets and shovels, waves roar on the horizon. Every moment spent bickering over castles in the sand threatens to wash away the things we have stood for and worked towards for hundreds of years.

As the administration dismantles the greatest military the world has ever known, waves threaten to wash away a core constitutional tenet to provide for the common defense. While Washington focuses on short-term budget fixes and fails to address our ever-growing national debt, more waves roll in, threatening America’s fiscal prosperity and our children’s future.

While Americans are pressured to be politically correct and chastised for standing publicly for their faith convictions, waves threaten to erode our religious freedom. While the administration uses unilateral action to allow the legalization of illegal immigrants, waves tear away at the rule of law and our constitutional approach to government.

Washington must change, and not merely because it’s exhausting to listen to politicians bicker over buckets and shovels and watch them throw sand. It needs to change in order to save the sandcastle and ensure the best possible future for our nation.

As a subcommittee chairman on the House Armed Services Committee, my top priorities are rebuilding our military, defeating ISIS and radical Islamic terrorism, protecting national security, and defending our defenders. As a senior member on the Judiciary Committee, I’m fighting to stop the Syrian refugee program, rein in the administration’s executive overreach and secure our borders.

Sometimes it may seem like an uphill battle, but it’s worth the fight. Our country is worth the fight.

Our Founding Fathers knew they were creating something powerful and unique — a constitutional republic carefully crafted to withstand the waves. They believed it was crucial to fight for freedom and to build a nation that was, as Thomas Jefferson said, the greatest hope of the world.

We need those who are willing to fight for America, rather than themselves. We need to stand on principle, stop throwing sand, and train our eyes to be focused on the biggest challenges our nation faces.

Because if we don’t, we know that we will be left, like those two children on the beach, staring at the sand where our castle once stood, wondering what happened to the America that was.

Congressman J. Randy Forbes represents Virginia’s Fourth District, which includes Suffolk, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Visit his website at