I’m in the Washington DC area. I live about 200 miles from DC so work brings me here on a fairly regular basis. If you’ve never had the opportunity to visit here, you may imagine Washington as a beautiful area with the white marble monuments you seen in pictures, on coins and on television. You probably think of busy politicians and lobbyists and cocktail parties where the real work of Congress gets done. There are also all those important places; the Oval Office; the Senate and House Chambers and hearing rooms, and of course the Supreme Court. It’s the place where you can see the Lincoln Monument, which is also where Dr. Martin Luther King made his “I Have a Dream” speech. Here resides the original Declaration of Independence and US Constitution.
All that is pretty much true – although I can’t personally vouch for the cocktail parties. But DC is not some fairy tale place.
The District of Columbia was created as a separate entity so that no state would have, or even appear to have an advantage by having the US capital in their territory. Prior to the creation of the District, the capital had been in Philadelphia, and New York. Land for the district was donated by Maryland and Virginia for the new capital city; the Maryland portion was used for the capital while the Virginia portion was later returned to Virginia in 1846. Maryland got bragging rights while Virginia has the land that includes Alexandria, the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery.
Washington is a real place with real issues just like every other American City. The National Mall, the beautiful expanse that runs from Lincoln Memorial to the United States Capitol has problems with its lawn – just like most of us run into. Think of how much Scotts lawn product that space would require. The earthquake last August caused cracks in the Washington Monument, closing it to visitors. Traffic is abominable both in the city and the various interstates that lead to or create the beltway around it. At some times of day, you literally cannot get there from here.
While stopped in traffic, there’s plenty of time to read license plates. Washington DC plates bear the slogan “Taxation without Representation.” Some want Washington DC to become a full blown state, which would put their citizens at quite an advantage. They would have two senators for about 620,000 people. Of course that would totally undo the intent of placing the national government in a neutral territory.
Over the years various governing ideas have been tried. President Grant appointed a governor who modernized and made major improvements to Washington, DC but bankrupted the city in the process (Maybe it’s something in the water?). Since 1961 they have had 3 electoral votes for president and vice president and a congressional representative without a vote. (Side note to the residents of DC; I’ve lived in 6 states in my lifetime. Believe me when I tell you that Senators and Congressmen and women are expensive, ill-behaved, prone to telling falsehoods and unreliable. You should know that from having all of ours hanging around your city.)
In 1973, Congress enacted home rule for DC, allowing for a mayor and a city council, although Congress does still maintain oversight and can step in and overrule actions of which it does not approve. However, when given the ability to vote for a mayor, the second election resulted in Marion Barry becoming mayor and while mayor being arrested and convicted for drug use, later being elected to city council, becoming mayor again and then returning to city council. Kind of makes you wonder what kind of senators they’d elect.
You’d think that a place where everyone who works there claims to be tough on crime would be safe. However, in the 1990’s DC was often called the murder capital of the United States – even though private ownership of guns was illegal. Seems the bad guys didn’t follow the gun law any better than they follow the other ones.
So why do I point out all the warts and imperfections of Washington DC?
I’ve always been fascinated with history and how the Founding Fathers – a group of tremendously imperfect men – created this great nation. Jefferson had his slaves. Benjamin Franklin was, well, a dirty old man; a delightful and witty dirty old man, but a dirty old man all the same. John Adams pissed everybody off because he was John Adams. However, they did great things.
Today in this nation we continue in our imperfection to do great things. We have no more wisdom than what God gives everyone. We have no special gift. We’re petty. We say whatever we need to say in order to be elected. But somehow it all works