Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Amateur American

I walk blisters onto my feet on my lunch breaks. I can't help it, I need to get to know this city. It hurts, and I should probably remember to bring better walking shoes more often. Still, I need to meet this city, because this is my city now. This is my city.

Washington DC is so fake it's real. Everything about this place is contrived, the architecture, the spacial relations between monuments, the sidewalks. And it's pretty effective too. I defy even the most cynical citizen to spend a few days here and not get at least a little shaken up by our heritage, our mission, our country! On the flip side, I defy even the heartiest of patriots to spend more than a few weeks here and not start to wonder what it is we've been playing at all these years. That's how it works though. DC overpowers you with monuments, museums, visions! And for a little while, that's all you see. The obelisk, Lincoln's Temple, the timeless dome of the Capital. And it seems so much bigger than you. It seems so old, so grounded. So very very real.

Except it isn't real. None of it is. It isn't even very old.

This country was not built by superhuman geniuses. It was built by farmers who didn't like paying overseas taxes. We are held together by geography and a shared story, one we make up a little more with each generation that passes. What is the American Dream, anyway?

Doesn't everybody dream?

Washington had several sets of teeth, made from wood, ivory, and mostly the teeth of other animals.

Jefferson made his own version of the bible, cutting out large sections of the New Testament, mostly anything that talked about Jesus' miracles. He didn't think those parts were true.

Hamilton, who lead one of the original political parties in this nation, wanted to run this country on a loose interpretation of the constitution. I guess since he helped write it, he didn't labor under the impression that its authors were gods. Or maybe he did. They say he had a big ego.

Madison stood 5'4" and never weighed more than 100 pounds.

Franklin lived in sin with a married woman and believed Christianity was a good idea but ultimately corrupted and untrue.

Ok, ok, I'll stop. Please don't sick Glenn Beck on me.

The point is, I love this city! I love that it's wrapped in its own hypocrisy, wearing it proudly like a mink coat in June. And I love that despite that, so many people are still trying to do good here. They still believe they can make the world a better place, that DC is a seat of real power that can be used to change the world for good. They are the right wing looneys looking to save family values. They are the left wing nut-jobs fighting for human rights and environmental responsibility. They are Americans. We are Americans.

I'm not a democrat. I feel I should let you all know this before you conservative pundits grab your torches and pitchforks. And now, before my liberal friends whisk out their superiority complexes I'd better be sure to confirm that I am also not a republican. I'm an independent. A proud leaner neither this way not that. A fence sitter. A spectator. An American.

But I live in Washington DC, with "tea baggers" (seriously people, get a better name already. You're grossing me out.) fighting for what they believe in, or what someone else believes in, or just fighting because they can. They think they are more American than you and me. Who knows? Maybe they are.

I live here with disgruntled liberals mumbling about change, transparency, and corruption. They are so used to being the underdogs at the political table that now, even with a filibuster proof majority, they play martyr as though it were an Olympic sport. They chant "Change" like a Sanskrit mantra that has lost all meaning. Who knows? Maybe it has.

And yet, I believe in this city. I believe in its whitewashed walls and reinvented history. I believe that every once in a while, something slips out and affects the world for the better. I believe that a group of farmers and amateur philosophers built a nation on nothing, and it's still standing. It's battle torn, lop sided, and completely unlike this perfectly planned out capital city, but it's still standing.
One nation.
Under God.
With liberty and justice for all.

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