A trip to Washington D.C. can’t help but force you to reflect on the place that the United States holds in the world today.
As I stood in line to enter the Visitors Center at the Capitol, I was struck by the fact that all around me, people were engaged in conversation as they passed me towards the rear of the line. The 2 young ladies behind me carried on a conversation in Spanish, a family of 4 in French, several small groups of varying Asian peoples, and I’m sure several other nationalities I didn’t pick up on.
Why are all these people willing to stand in line for 20-30 minutes, on a cold day in the last week of December, to gain admission to a tour of a building where you really only get to see 3 rooms? Would we as Americans stand in line to take a tour of the main legislative building of a large percentage of the worlds’ nations? I don’t think most of us would; you’d have to be an afficionado of a particular discipline to want to do it.
I’d like to believe that it’s a tribute to our national ethic and our values and our freedoms.
It is a comforting feeling to see people of all ages and colors and backgrounds look on sites like the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial with respect and reverence. If we want to blame some sort of breakdown in our society on the fact that young people have no respect for tradition and sense of pride in our American way of life, even the most cynical would have a difficult time trying to prove it after a day of people watching in Washington.
The District of Columbia gets a bad rap from a lot of segments of public opinion, but I don’t think it’s completely deserved. I had nothing but positive experiences and interactions during the 48 hours I was there. OK, within 5 minutes of getting off the highway and driving down Connecticut Ave I was nearly sideswiped by a car–which turned out to have diplomatic plates, so I know that people who have that status don’t care whether they are in the wrong or not–but that might have been the only bad thing that happened to me. I was panhandled once at the Metro, but the guy was in a wheelchair and I had something like $7.27 worth of loose change, so I had no problem parting with a bit of it.
But I was fortunate to receive the “hook-up” more than I probably would’ve hoped for–the desk clerk at the Renaissance Hotel who gave me the BG Alumni group rate for my room even though I didn’t have a reservation, and gave me a newly renovated room; the kid at RFK Stadium who gave me a discount on my ticket–$14.75 for a $25 general admission; and the desk clerk at the Days Inn in Frederick Md who gave me a AAA discount even though I wasn’t a member. That added up to about $50 total savings from complete strangers.
All things being equal, I think I’ve moved Washington into my list of favorite cities.