Tuesday, August 31, 2004

DC Trip Notes

Washington DC has never been among my favorite major US cities. New York is far and away the tops, for every reason: the magnificent sense of scale, the skyline, the wonderful food, the depth and range of cultural choices, Central Park... I could rave on and on. In that distant second tier, I rank San Francisco, Seattle, and even Indianapolis ahead of DC in terms of spirit and energy.

DC is frankly very depressing to me. Being the seat of such sprawling bureaucracy alone makes DC intellectually oppressive. But the negative vibe present on the street could crush a sensitive idealist such as myself, had I not been prepared for it. There is no city that is quite so narrow-minded as DC, or as polarized by political affiliation. The liberal grafitti use of the swastika on all things illiberal demonstrates well the irrational hyperbolic demonization the Left uses to smear the Right. The Right counters with the equally irrational and hyperbolic, but at least more positive, "Bush is God" stickers- on every light post and newspaper box. There are plenty of midwestern folks I disagree with on issues, but I tend to believe that I could still reach most of them with a well-reasoned position. I do not have that sense about anyone in DC. Add to this atmosphere of general filth and grime (despite a lack of industry), a huge schizophrenic and/or strung out homeless population, and you have me watching Olympic soccer in the hotel in the middle of the afternoon.

Fortunately, DC is still offers history, and that alone can sustain me through such despair. Showing it all to Alex made it a very satisfying experience, and one I still recommend to families.

The first thing to do is to contact one of your Senators. Don't let it get in the way if you are not a supporter of your Senator, or vote for another party. Their office staff doesn't care. Heck, the staffers can just as easily support another party, too. The reason for contacting your Senator's office is that the only way to tour the White House and other landmarks is to do so on a Senatorial tour. Thanks to security concerns, you can no longer walk up to the White House and get in. The earlier you schedule, the better. I gave it two months lead time and was still closed out of the White House. Fortunately, we did get to tour the Capitol with Richard Lugar's office.

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