Thursday, June 09, 2005

To the Hill and Back

Today is the first day of my non-profit’s annual conference. We had a legislative plenary in the morning in which we gave awards to two congresspeople (one Repub, one Dem) for their work on our issues. The conference is being held, as it has been for the past 5 years, at a hotel on Capitol Hill. My husband and I had to be there by seven this morning, so we got up at dawn, filled ourselves up with Starbucks and made our way into the Big City.

It is always interesting, living outside of what is known as the “capital of the free world.” When you first move here, everything is a bit awe inspiring . . . seeing the monuments, walking by the White House, seeing the Capitol building. Look, there are Senators and Congressmen! Look, there is the Supreme Court! Look, there is the President! Big important things are done here!

But then you live here for a while . . . you have friends who work in congressional offices, at the White House, at the Pentagon, or in one of the many federal agencies. You work for non-profits on different issues that you care about. You learn how things actually work and things don’t seem so big and awe inspiring anymore. You know the intricacies of various government processes – you see how people are human, and as such are just average joes, doing their jobs to the best of their abilities, following their beliefs and values just like everyone else. You become more realistic. You learn there is no black and white, just shades of gray. You learn to actually read the source documents to find the real truth, and not pay any attention to any slap fights in the media about any one subject. You realize that the “Beltway Pundits” are just shrill shills, stirring up emotions for a paycheck and you try to pay them no mind, because really, most of the time they have no freakin’ idea what they are actually talking about.

You look at the monuments and are no longer thrilled. The tourists are annoyance, double parking randomly in the middle of the street, clogging up the Metro escalators, having dubious fashion sense. You look at the increased security and don’t feel any safer – in fact, some of the stuff seems to make things worse. (For example, underground tourist entrances? I’d rather be in the open air where I have a good shot of running off quickly, rather than sticking everyone in a hole where they’ll be sitting ducks.) However, no matter what, you still believe in the true power of the city – the ability of individuals working together, long enough and hard enough, to accomplish things that will benefit everyone. You still have hope that even though what you do may seem pointless at the moment, it is still leading to a larger goal. So you decide that you really couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

Then it hits you. You have now become a Washingtonian.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Having lived in Northern Virginia since I was five years old I feel I can say with certainty KathC - Congrad's you are a Washingtonian! It is a mixture of awe and annoyance, knowing you are living in the "capital of the free world" (isn't that a tag line for one of the radio stations out here, 107.3, 104.1 or is it 99.5?). Sometimes I have difficulty reconciling that I live so close to so much power, but everyday on my commute I go through the Pentagon parking lot and it hits me all over again - papers might be shuffled inside that five sided building but also life-altering decisions are being made, its an incredible feeling. And yes, could tourists please move to the right on the Metro escalators?!!!
-Virginia Gal