One of my first impressions of DC was that many of its staunchest supporters have a giant chip on their shoulders; a monkey on their backs, if you will. Or at least a Cheney on their asses. The point is, I often find that when anyone attempts to criticize, generalize or otherwise allude to anything that might suggest DC is chock full of federally employed tools, this group gets unduly defensive.
After living here for a longish bit of time as well as meeting a handful of people that have avoided joining the ranks of the Capitol Hill stereotype, I can see why people find articles like this one, published yesterday in the New York Times (which I'm thinking probably bunches these pro-DCers' khakis even more), annoying.
To save you from reading the entire article (if you haven't already), it's a cutesy, largely throw-away political piece about how the personality of the President influences general trends and the overall feeling of Washington. Just how cutesy and throw-away? Here's the first line:
Bill Clinton brought jazz, Rhodes scholars, a slice of Arkansas and all-night pizza policy sessions. When George W. Bush arrived, Texans took over the town. Blue jeans were out; coats and ties and cowboy boots were in.
Surely, Ms. Sheryl Gay Stolberg, is aiming for satire here (although rather non-sensical, as I'm pretty sure cowboys love jeans), but you get the idea. Apparently Obama, who is "young, hip and multicultural, with a Harvard law degree, a writer’s sensibility and a smooth left-handed jump shot," will oust the Texans and bring back denim. Or whatever. The point is, sh*t just won't change politically on Capitol Hill (although that remains to be seen...), but culturally, as well. Fair enough.
So why are people, particularly over at DCist, so TO'd? For one, I suppose the article fails to send the proverbial full body shot of what DC really looks like. Clearly, with 93 percent of DC's electorate voting in favor of Obama while Bush is in the White House, no less, suggests that the city has not, in fact, been overrun by Texans in cowboy boots and 10-gallon hats. If that were so, wouldn't it seem more likely that McCain would have won 93 percent of the electorate? I ♥ my logic.
But for anyone with a slightly deeper knowledge of DC, we realize most of the city is far removed from what goes down in the White House. Rather than worrying about this policy or that appropriation, we worry about walking home late at night and not getting shot in the face. Or, perhaps more telling, heading to Sunday brunch and not getting capped. Then again, I guess it's not out of the realm of possibility that Cheney is the one wielding the gun...
But who's targeting whom is not the point. The point is, the New York Times article spoke to the image of DC as the Capital of the Free World, not to DC as the city with the highest per capita crime rate. Or to DC, a town that, despite the overwhelming clusterf*ck of government activity, still has a pretty respectable scene if you do some digging. After all, Dan Deacon's playing the Hirshhorn tonight and I'm sure Bush has never even heard of him. And who knows, maybe he'll wear jeans! CRAZY!
Now maybe it's just me, but I don't have a problem with articles, like Ms. Stolberg's, that purport the DC stereotype that everything revolves around politics here, including the city's very identity. Why? Because it's largely true. If your job doesn't involve the government in some way, shape or form, then you, my e-friend (and really, if your job doesn't involve the government, I would like to be your friend), are the exception. If you don't find yourself out networking with an array of tools at least a couple of times per year, then you, again, my hopeful future friend, are the exception. Like it or not, that's life in DC -- Northwest, Northeast, Southwest and Southeast.
This town only exists because of the government. Think about it, DC was never a port city or major business center (save for government contracting). People don't travel here to check out the fabulous fashion or music scene (because it barely exists); instead, they come to see the various monuments, meet their representatives and tour the Capitol. Sure the Smithsonians are must-sees, but judging from firsthand experience of my own, whenever I came to DC as a tourist when I was a kid, it was government first, museums second. And, if I was lucky, hotel swimming pool third, which, obviously, would've been my No. 1 pick.
It's time people in DC just accept the city's fate. As long as the government sits itself on the metaphorical toilet that is Capitol Hill, this town will now and forever be thought of as just that -- a giant government-owned and operated inexhaustible goblet. One that no plumber, not even Joe (one last shout out!), can fix if it breaks. And it breaks a lot. And smells weird.