Home in Washington

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If
you say "Washington, DC" to almost anyone who doesn't
live here, chances are you'll get the same reaction. Home of the
United States Government. Land of the Politicians, the Lobbyists,
and the Beltway Bandits. Whatever your politics, the feelings about
most of those things are almost always negative.

But
for those of us who live here, it's much more than that. To us,
there are two Washingtons. The one mentioned above. And then the
other one, the one we consider home. And that one, when we are able
to separate the two, has actually been a great place to call home.
I don't have to go far to swim in the ocean, or hike in the mountains,
or to see a great play, or a ball game of some sort. I enjoy the
change of seasons — from the hot, humid days of August to the cold,
gray days of February. I can visit the beautiful monuments of Washington
that pay homage to those who founded this country, or reminisce
about what it must have been like to be George and Martha Washington,
strolling the banks of the Potomac at Mount Vernon. I can go sailing
in the Chesapeake Bay or take a drive to the horse country of Virginia.
The possibilities are endless.

But
the past year has tested even those of us loyal to this area. In
addition to the usual challenges of living in any large city, we
have been forced to deal with very unusual weather extremes, the
fear of living with a sniper on the loose, and of course the ever-present,
ever-changing Code of Terror.

Last
spring and summer we suffered through a severe drought, in which
our always-on-the-ball local governments immediately did what they
could to put as many restrictions on our water use as possible.
From washing our cars to watering our lawns to filling our swimming
pools, all outside uses of water were prohibited. I'm sure if they
could have found a way to enforce it, we all would have been put
on some sort of shower and laundry schedule.

Then
last fall we all quaked in fear under the sniper attacks. For most
of the month of October, we ventured outside only nervously, and
went about our business only out of necessity and as quickly as
possible. Pumping gas was enough to make even the bravest heart
race. One of my favorite comments on this whole episode came from
an online humor chat, where one person wrote in that he had "taken
to prepping himself for surgery" before venturing out to pick
up the paper in the morning. Laughter is often an antidote to fear,
and we tried to utilize whatever coping mechanisms we could under
such trying times.

We
then had one of our worst winters ever, with as much snow as most
of us had ever seen in this area. In the beginning, it was a pleasant
sight, but it got tiresome as the snow continued to fall, traffic
nightmares worsened, and parents were trapped at home for yet another
day of school cancellations.

But
however difficult it was, the snow did not begin to compare to the
torrential amounts of rain we had this past spring. For over a month,
during April and May, we did not have one clear day. As of early
June, this had officially become the ninth wettest year on record,
with more than half of the year remaining. We then had several more
inches of rain, and it appeared the rain would never end.

Last
year, during the drought, there was plenty of opportunity but no
need to mow our lawns. This year, the need was plentiful but the
rain barely stopped long enough to give one an opportunity to get
the mower out. Little league schedules were thrown completely into
disarray, as more games were rained out than were actually played.
I read a rather terrifying article in a local paper which noted
that even the snakes had started heading for dry ground — which
often meant inside someone's home.

And
of course, during all of this, we've had our Terror Alerts. We were
told to stock up on duct tape and plastic sheeting, and to watch
out for and report any "suspicious activity." The electronic
signs above the highways remind us daily to call a special number
should we see anything that is deemed unusual. I'm not sure what
that means, but unless I see someone assembling WMD along the roadway
I'm not sure I'd recognize "unusual."

With
all of this, I have to think that anyone who does not truly call
Washington home must be planning an escape. I know that some people,
who never before considered leaving, are now beginning to change
their minds. They wonder what the future may bring — what sort of
plague will descend upon us next.

But
for many of us Washingtonians, we knew the rain would eventually
stop. We went straight from the rain to the heat and humidity of
summer, with no break in the bad-hair days. We now wonder if the
"Code Red" we hear refers to the air quality or the "Terror
Alert" level. We deal with the traffic, the politics, the weather,
and whatever other challenges are put before us.

So,
with all that, why do I want to stay here? It's much easier, I'm
sure, to be a diehard Libertarian in locations other than Washington,
DC. But what better location can there be to try and change the
minds of people than where they are the most corrupted? We can shout
our beliefs from the rooftops in the small towns and big cities
in the Midwest, or elsewhere, and know that we will have many voices
in support of the idea that the folks in DC take way too much of
our money to do things we wouldn't want done even if it were free.
But if you shout those things in DC, you will be lucky to find just
one or two who agree with you.

After
all, most of the ordinary Joes here make their living off the Federal
Government. I grew up on a street in my hometown in which every
father went off to work each morning for some agency of the Feds,
and every mother stayed home with the kids. It was a picture-perfect
childhood. I didn't have one set of parents, I had about a dozen.
And they're still there, and we still get together for special occasions
and some not-so-special occasions. I tread lightly, trying to convince
them of my newfound beliefs, all the while knowing it will be an
uphill battle. But oh, what a feeling it is when one person even
slightly acknowledges that what I'm saying has at least a ring of
truth to it, and it's something he had never considered.

It
brings back memories of my "enlightenment", and how it
took only one person to make me begin to see things that I had never
before considered, and what a change it brought about in me. It
can be done, and I would like to be a catalyst of change for what
may be the toughest audience in the world.

Wish
me luck.

August
13, 2003

Allison
Brown [send her mail] is
a financial officer in Maryland.


        
        

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