What would George Washington think of Washington DC, today?
I was in the Whole Foods market near George Washington University the other day, filled with aspiring, and aspired, federal technocrats. The seating area takes up more than half of one floor, it was packed, and open ‘til 11. Studenty/yuppie, and yuppie students. I bet a condominium in the ‘hood is over a million for two-bedrooms.
I bet at least some of those students live in condos like that.
Maybe this one:
Anyone can write about facts. Facts are easy. But impressions tell so much more (just ask Malcolm Gladwell.) So, rather than wasting your time with lengthy disquisitions about facts (boring, boring, OMG so booooring facts), here’s something you may never know, unless you happen to be in this particular ‘hood, while having known the people I’ve known.
It goes like this:
I’ve got friends – go-on-holiday-together-level friends – who are, actually, royal (not saying which country.) I mean, I’m no snob, but if royal people don’t ruffle my feathers, you’d have to agree, my feathers are not easily ruffled. But my feathers were ruffled. I felt intimidated by this girl. The cold hard look in her eyes.
There was a girl at this late night Whole Foods, in spitting distance of the Lincoln Memorial, plucking some of those brown sandpapery Whole Foods recycled napkins from their dispenser as I walked by, all the better to wipe her latté laden mouth.
She had a look on her face that said:
“My parents came from a non (typical) American background. Maybe South America, maybe Lebanon. Somewhere in which the Christian/Anglo type of egalitarianism has never held sway. They were uneducated (in the traditional sense, although maybe they went to business school somewhere), and uncultured. But they bought lots of things that made them feel cultured – maybe paintings they didn’t have the soul to understand, or tickets to concerts where music was played that could never touch their frozen hearts. They were mean towards, and disrespectful of, maids and servants, for the simple reason that the only difference they could see between themselves and their servants was that their skin, most probably, was a of a slightly lighter hue, and their bank accounts and stomachs certainly bulged more. They were mean so they could feel they were different, and somehow better, than them (although, of course, the only difference was their greater capacity for venality.) They sent me, their daughter, to George Washington University as it is very expensive, so, in their view, I will be with members of my own economic class (the only “class” distinction they are capable of seeing.) As I have no ambition, having been pampered my whole life, but am accustomed to bossing other people around – such as my servants, and teachers – a comfy role in “public service” is perfect for me. I consider that I’m quite clever to go to this third-rate “university” in which independent thought is frowned upon, but where half-baked regurgitation of officially received wisdom is the path to straight A’s-ville. I will most likely end up with a third tier position in the foreign service, where I will be able to spend American tax dollars to support my lifestyle, before nepotism of some sort leads me to the second half of my life, filled with inept plastic surgeons and a descent into alcoholism and prescription drug abuse.”
Thank you, Malcolm Gladwell, for giving me the confidence to believe in my impressions, while avoiding critical thought (which, like this girl, I find sooooo boring.)
Now for the fun (!)
Washington DC is filled with these sorts of people. I’ve known enough to know that my impression of this class of person, (if not the exact details of this specific person,) is spot on.
Here is another Washington DC impression:
The people on the subway. Dead hearts. Empty eyes.
In New York, man, there is life on the subway, even when everyone is silent. You can see it in their eyes. They are doing something with their lives, they are, if not following their dreams, at least trying to do something that requires some kind of individual effort.
Washington DC, on the other hand, is filled with, at best, second-rate people who view your tax dollars in the same way a third world factory owner (like this girl’s father) views his servants. Something they are entitled to use for completely selfish reasons.
George Washington sacrificed and/or risked everything he had in order to fulfil the public role he felt called upon to engage in during the second half of his life, which was almost entirely devoted helping create The United States.
This is not the Washington DC vibe today.
If you ever spent time here, you’d know what I mean.
Your response, if you had this same visceral sense of what the people who spend your tax dollars are really like, would be to only vote for true reformers.
Certainly not the sort who want to keep the status quo.
(When I left, the girl I did a Spock mind-meld with was talking to her friend about the pleasures of the balcony at a local bar. Every third word was a non-adjectival “like”.)
Austin Washington has a smile that melts girls hearts, and once upon a time wrote a book about his great uncle, GW http://AustinWashington.com/George