Polar Bear Swim on New Year's morning (and a point of view)
By Mark Ufkes
West Seattle Polar Bear Swim
January 1, 2020 (The Year of Perfect Vision!)
We enter the water at 10 am sharp !
2020 is finally here. West Seattle’s Alki Beach is the place. Across from Dukes.
We run into the water at 10:00 am sharp, Wednesday, January 1, 2020. Last year we had about 700 swimmers, up from a handful of swimmers when we started this tradition over 15 years ago. Swimmers should bring a towel, good water shoes and their hopes and dreams for the New Year.
We line up and down Alki beach in a long row, we hold hands with our family and friends (in my case, with my remarkable, beautiful wife Lois), count down from 10, 9, 8, 7 (be sure to wait for the countdown!), …. and at 10:00 sharp we run into Puget Sound screaming as if we are mildly insane. It’s all over in less than a minute, quite painless really, and everyone is happy and smiling afterword. There is something monumental about forcing ourselves out of our comfort zone and willingly jumping into Puget Sound to wash away the complexities of the previous year and invite the unlimited possibilities of the New Year into our lives.
What I want in 2020; well, I recently retired after 12 years as a Scoutmaster where I spent thousands of hours mentoring over 40 boys to complete their Eagle Scout award. I helped these Scouts (my two boys included) to develop a profound appreciation for our natural world and I always stressed several character traits that they need in adulthood.
First, I taught Scouts to never degrade or bully anyone. We can disagree, but everyone deserves respect. And if these Scouts see bullying, they have an obligation to intervene and stop it. Yet President Trump degrades and bullies others every day.
Second, I emphasized the importance of respecting family. Yet President Trump cheated on all three of his wives and bragged about sexually assaulting women. Imagine how his actions disrespected and hurt the self-esteem of these women and his children?
Third, I stressed that Scouts need to live a life of service to others in some form. Doing “a good turn daily”, the Scout Motto, should not be taken lightly. Yet President Trump created a non-profit to make us think that he was serving others, but he used the funds for himself. Trump’s action is really the moral equivalent of shoplifting at Goodwill.
Finally, I reminded these boys that when they turn 18, they must register for the military draft, consider military or other community service to pay America back, and that they should register and then vote. Trump had five deferments to avoid military service, and more important, he repeatedly ridiculed veterans who served honorably (think Senator John McCain and others). And Trump’s Republican operatives are pushing many states to make it harder for every legal citizen, 18 and older, to vote in 2020, because they know that lower voter turnouts help Republicans win.
So, for 2020, all I want is for America to realize that the Presidency of the United States reflects the moral character of our nation and that Donald Trump has proven that he does not deserve this great honor. And for all you outraged Trump supporters, all I can ask is this; “would you want your children to treat people the way Donald Trump treats people?”
Finally, I will be wearing pink again as usual on January 1, until the day that the majority of our Members of Congress are women and/or people of color, since these two groups are the American majority. That, my friends, is the only way we will truly Make America Great Again!
Mark L. Ufkes
Polar Bear Swimmer