Washington, DC

I’m in Washington, DC for a few days, and walking around and
riding the Metro got me thinking.

Washington is a strange and wonderful place, on one hand representing our nation and on the other hand being quite different from much of it.  My understanding, based on the word of a tour guide several years ago, is that land was donated by both Virginia and Maryland to become the nation’s capital.  It was seen as important to place the capital so that it would not belong to any particular one of the states.  The donated lands apparently did not qualify
as prime real estate, but instead was swamp land, according to this tour guide.  Ultimately the land donated by Maryland was returned to them, he claimed although I have not been able to independently confirm that.  He did not explain why that occurred.

Today Washington is a study in contrasts.  On one hand it is the seat of the federal government, but Washington DC license plates bear the comment “Taxation without Representation.”  Since it is not a state, it does not have senators or congressmen. The district is ultimately controlled by the US Congress although it has an elected mayor.  I cannot understand, and therefore will not attempt to explain the court system and how judges ascend to the bench.  As near as I can tell, the president appoints some/all judges and most court cases are handled as federal cases.

It has some of the most beautiful buildings and awe inspiring monuments, while some of the outlying streets are a study in potholes.  It is the home to various overnment agencies and public service organizations dedicated to helping the poor and the homeless, yet it is common to have to walk around street people who have claimed a portion of a particular sidewalk or the underside of a bridge as their address.  Government buildings are a study in security with access closely controlled, yet there are portions of DC in which I feel unsafe any time of the day or night.

It’s interesting that contrast seems endemic to the District of Columbia.  In the current congressional style of interaction it appears that everyone focuses on what is different rather than what they have in common. On the other hand, most of us outside the beltway tend to focus on what we have in common with one another.

Members of the same neighborhood focus on safety concerns and the schools they have in common even though they have different jobs and different backgrounds.  Members of a church focus on the beliefs they have in common as opposed to where they live or the type of work they do.  At work we may live in
different neighborhoods, cities or even states yet we focus on the work requirements we have in common rather than those things that differentiate us.

I realize that being elected to office is like any other marketing effort, and the key to marketing is differentiation.  It is how you get people to choose Coke over Pepsi, Ford over Chevy and Obama over McCain. However, in most human encounters, once people leave the parking lot their views may not change but their engagement does.  While they are no less passionate about the Boston Red Sox, they don’t let that get in the way of sitting next to and engaging effectively with an equally die-hard Yankees fan.

It makes you wonder if being in DC changes people.

Washington DC is a study in contrasts.

There’s a lesson in here somewhere….

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