If you’re outside Washington, DC looking in, you might think one of two things: it’s finally on the right track, and progress is finally being made … or it’s a dumpster fire raging completely out of control. The fact of the matter is DC itself is neither. Yesterday, the weather was downright California-esque, reaching as high as 70-degrees. The sun was out, and tourists, residents and commuters alike were strolling the streets quite casually and clearly pleased with the weather and the general environs. The cherry blossoms are popping early, and the majesty of the federal buildings is no less than it has ever been.
Do I say all of this to paint over the very real problems we face as a nation and around the world. Absolutely not, but I also think it’s worthwhile to cut through the blazing, bright-red and overly-animated “breaking news” banners to inject a bit of a reality check. While our democracy is by no means immune to all threats, it is quit resilient, and DC shows that resilience well.
A healthy democracy requires our informed involvement, regardless our individual political persuasion. If this election inspired you to be more involved in your state, local and federal government, that’s wonderful. Keep that fire raging, but channel DC while you do. The view of those who live and work in the nation’s capital is not one of days, weeks, months or even years. It’s one of decades and centuries.
We must remain vigilant now to protect our rights and freedom, just as we have had to remain vigilant in all the years prior. Our rights are not guaranteed. They have been hard-won and, in order for them to remain in place, they will need to be diligently protected and defended. A pervasive belief that somehow Washington, DC can be easily tossed into absolute and complete chaos undermines an important and fundamental aspect of our democracy. Washington is more resilient than that, and so, quite frankly, is the nation. But some seem to think complacency has been an option before, and now it’s not. Meanwhile, others believe the fight is over and a national order has been established as they have long wished to see it. Both assumptions are wrong. Nothing is written in stone. Nothing.
That being said, don’t imagine that this fight is somehow leaving Washington, DC in some raging, chaotic mess. I am often asked by those who do not live in DC (or have never been) how things are here. People ask as if they are expecting me to say it is jubilant or depressed. I will admit, DC is political blue. So, yes, many of the people inside DC were not pleased with the election results. But, the city, as a whole, is as it has always been. If any city is poised to metabolize a transfer of power from one president to another, it’s DC. It’s part of what I love so much about the District. It is a salad bowl of people from around the world with literal swatches of land given over to various nations. It is home to dedicated, mind-numbingly intelligent public servants. There are few times I feel more intellectually challenged than when I am speaking to a career civil servant. If you take a moment to meet one of these remarkable people, you will know we are, as a nation, in very good hands. But you wouldn’t know that from the headlines.
Alternative facts, lies and misleads rest on one side or the other, but, in the middle, are the unvarnished facts. There too is the District of Columbia. So, if you get a chance this year, come and visit Washington, DC. Don’t accept the pencil sketch made by headlines. Instead, see the city in its full color. Assuming you’re an American, your nation’s capital is remarkable, colorful and rich with culture. It is not a trash heap on fire, nor is it a land cleansed and pure. It is truly American — resilient, beautiful, dynamic, diverse, flawed, inventive and ready to boldly face the future.
(Photo: I took this photo in Blagden Alley, a hidden alcove in Washington, DC. Come on by and pay me a visit. I’ll take you there.)