Americans Live In The D.C. Beltway, Too
||Daily World (LA)
||Friday, November 12, 2010
WASHINGTON - Memo:
To: Newly elected members of Congress.
From: Inside the Beltway.
Re: This is America, too.
Congratulations and welcome to the most vilified piece of real estate on the continent.
What you find may not be exactly what you have heard about the place. It may even surprise you that it is a lot more than you and your colleagues, new and old, campaigned against.
Inside-the-Beltway residents who live inside the boundaries of the Interstate 495 freeway that rings the city are fine with that. We are accustomed to the cesspool references, to the claims of disconnect, to the jokes about our abysmal snow-handling record. We are long accustomed to politicians who build careers bashing Washington. We understand why candidates for years have boasted of turning "inside the Beltway" into occupied territory for their particular cause or ideology.
Some inside-the-Beltway Americans have even come to grips with knowing that while they pay taxes like everyone else, they have no voting representation in Congress. So get used to the "taxation without representation" on D.C. license plates. It is a mild protest to the rest of America.
Inside the Beltway, we understand hyperbole and symbolism better than most Americans, given that the top three Beltway industries involve the production of laws, rhetoric and punditry — not always in that order.
But you will be surprised to find that not everyone works for the federal government, or is hyperpolitical, or even political at all. There are beautiful parks and bike trails inside the Beltway. You will see horses in Rock Creek Park. You can take a water taxi across the Potomac from Alexandria to a Major League Baseball game within walking distance of the U.S. Capitol. You can take a boat ride to Mount Vernon and get a glimpse of what made Washington the man he was.
You will be exposed to the cult of Redskins football. It is unavoidable.
You can go to church or synagogue or mosque inside the Beltway.
Yes, there is K Street lobby row, the Beltway Bandit crowd, the homeless poor, the Georgetown salons for the idle rich and famous, the segregated neighborhoods, and the bad schools that the critics focus on.
But there are mixed neighborhoods and staunch middle-class communities that resemble any American suburb.
Two final words of advice:
- If snow comes, hibernate. If you absolutely have to be out, be ready for the craziest driving you will ever see.
- Before they start trying to claim you have "gone Washington" and lost your roots while rubbing shoulders with the rich and powerful in D.C., at least try to get to know your new home first. You might find that you're still in America, after all.
This article also appeared in:
Gannett News Service