A Great Weekend to Be in the Capital
The New Year has already rushed in on us living her in Washington D.C., daring you to catch your breath, but also reminding you that living here is like living nowhere else in the United States, in the world.
Already, we’ve more or less avoided going over a cliff and at the last second no less, with more thrills and spills to come—hello, debt ceiling, hello, government shutdown ... or not.
We live in Washington, and we’re grateful for it, or should be, because here, people can live in their neighborhoods and still be a part of history every day, which is something you can’t do in Ames, Iowa, or Tuscaloosa, or San Francisco or Toledo, Ohio, or Toledo Spain.
The world comes to this city and we can’t help but noticing—look what happened just recently when the President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai came to meet with President Barack Obama and talk about the future of his country, and the future of our eventual withdrawal from his country. Karzai also happened to be giving an address at Georgetown University and with that speech—rare in terms of the opportunities provided to hear the leader of a country where American soldiers are still fighting and dying—we are reminded of where we live. The visit was also a reminder of the fact that all of us—in Georgetown, Adams Morgan, in all the wards, in Anacostia or Chevy Chase, live in a city where events of major and ritual import happen every day. In a few days, we’ll be celebrating the ritualistic inauguration of President Barack Obama for a second time, in an entirely different mood from his first, on the same day that we celebrate the birthday of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Both celebrations are events and are accompanied by other events—balls and parades, concerts and speeches, prayers and the gathering of crowds. At times like these, we gather on the Capitol, near the White House, along Pennsylvania Avenue, in our churches, and our performance arts centers and venues. Words will be said meant to inspire, but could also ire, given the current political climate of intemperance and gridlock. Songs will be sung—Smokey Robinson is in town for an MLK celebration.
Not far off is the State of the Union Address, and the great debates and hearings at the Supreme Court, this time taking up the issue of gay marriage. Lincoln and Washington will have birthdays, and before you know it, it will be opening day of the baseball season, and the spring opera season and Cherry Blossoms. The elected officials will once again gather to attempt to deal with each other with civility and a hope of a practical result. The language currently—on debt, deficits, gun control, shut downs and spending and saving and taxes and the like is uncommonly apocalyptic, apoplectic and uncompromising on just about any issue. Here in this city we hear the noises of discontent daily, they are a part of our walking-to-work muzak, along with the voices on the radio arguing health care, Obama, Boehner, the fate of the Redskins and the efficacy of photographic speed traps.
We still have no voting representative in Congress and are not likely to become a state anytime soon, but we appear to have a flush economy, a changing population and governing bodies that are not held in high esteem. Surely, you might know that the city council, the executive with the mayor in charge, might have something to do with the city’s enviable economic situation, but you can’t prove it by the news coverage, the news itself, where even respected elected types don’t get treated with respect. This may have something to do with the fact that the potential legal troubles hanging over the mayor’s head and others are still unresolved and remain an unrepentant focus of interest for the media.
We live in the sweet solace of neighborhoods where kids get taken to daycare and grow in spurts, and dogs rule on the sidewalks, where parking, shopping for groceries, getting flu shots, it’s the universal living and dying of every day, while within earshot, and eyesight, the great wild and wide world and its protests and protestations, its cultures, its troubles and dangers, lives right with us, down the street, inside government office buildings, the embassies of the world, in cultural institutions, in a note of music from a foreign land at an embassy on Massachusetts Avenue.
We, who live in Washington, those 99 percenters of us, appear after all to be rich in the wealth offered to us by living in a place that brings us the world into our world.