It has now been exactly one month since I arrived in the capitol; one month since my last post. I’ve found a lot of difficulty in putting my thoughts into coherent sentences, primarily due to the very nature of the city itself. I made a promise to myself that I would refrain from discussing politics here, something especially hard to do considering I spent five weeks in the epicenter of our political infrastructure. I realized that to be near impossible though so I sought to explore how the nature of D.C. built the culture that exists.
To say that our nation’s capitol is a polarizing place is an incredible understatement especially considering how the last eight months have played out; one block being littered with MAGA hats and the next flying pride flags. When you start to look deeper though there is a thriving community at work where the norm seems to be more of an idea of non-communication as a form of peace. It’s a bit unsettling to say the least, but it works. Outside of the ever present tension, thick and brooding, is a warm and welcoming community. Almost as if meeting new people temporarily relieves the stress sitting upon the shoulders of this city.
Once you can get past the foreboding weight that protests or riots will break out at any moment the city becomes a breathtaking spectacle of history and art, especially around the National Mall; a collection of museums, galleries, and other buildings of historic significance surrounding the blocks-long lawn between the Capitol Building and Washington Monument. The sheer number of attractions will give you days worth of things to see and do considering that all Smithsonian institutions are free to visit. There is a culture here that is alive and thriving with diversity, art, and passion; each and every block littered with a multitude of ethnic cuisines, mom and pop stores selling a vast array of goods that showcase (proudly) the heritage that forms the basis of this city.
The most striking feature of our nation’s capitol is the rigorous pursuit of maintaining the historical aspects that formed their foundation. While new buildings are popping up all over the place, in part due to the massive influx of people into D.C., a majority of the city still holds true to the old world aesthetics that make this destination beautiful. Row houses are abundant on every block in a seamless mix of businesses and apartments and, while the exteriors remain unchanged outside of some restorative work, their guts have been renovated to keep with modern sensibilities creating an unusual time leap as you walk into a century old building to discover a modernist restaurant full of young working professionals drinking and carrying on.
Walking through the various neighborhoods (which you’ll do a lot of) really gives you a sense of how crucial the melting pot aspect of the city is to it’s very identity. A Tibetan goods store sitting next to an Ethiopian restaurant, sandwiched between a sports bar and a hookah lounge aren’t uncommon here. Every alley has artwork inspired by the multitudes of cultures that have converged on this place. It is a city unlike any other; one that, in my opinion, truly encapsulates the ideals that our country was founded on. Tolerance and acceptance are the guiding values here for the most part. An aspect that I was very surprised by, given the recent history of protests and riots that have shaken this community. It could be attributed to protest fatigue, or maybe there is more at work than I can perceive as a temporary visitor, but the welcome that I have received is something that wasn’t completely expected.
Regardless of political affiliations, this is absolutely a must visit city for anyone who wants to get a real view of our country at work. The hustle and bustle can be a bit overwhelming for anyone not used to a fast paced metropolitan like this; where everyone is always on to the next important meeting, shaping courses in our country. I urge anyone who visits, however, to really slow down and not get swept away in the never ending pace of D.C.. Take your time and try to appreciate every aspect of this multifaceted, ever growing, and ever shifting city situated at the crux of our nation’s future; you’ll be glad you did.