Being a father of a little girl often means watching her favorite movie over and over; often until you have memorized every line and scene. Shrek 3 is that movie for me. I have seen this movie countless times, but to Bailey, it is always fresh and new. Maybe it is a comfort thing; I am not going to pretend to understand a 4 year old girls mind. Shrek 3, though, is set in the “Kingdom of Far, Far Away.” When I begin to reflect on our most recent VALOR excursion, it felt like I traveled to the Kingdom of Far, Far Away.
Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. are unlike anywhere else in the state. Compared to my home in southern Virginia, it really is like Far, Far Away. It is just a different world. People hurry along, taking little time to notice anything around them; just getting to their destination/job. I prefer my lifestyle, where travel can be measured in a mile a minute driving time; not happening in D.C. Then there is the constant symbolism of power. I’d consider myself an independent person, not seeking a “ruler.” I view government under the prism of this famous quote from Thomas Paine, “Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one. While the city/area is full of history, and I am sure of fascinating stories and people; for this guy, it is nice to visit and even better to leave.
Part of this VALOR experience is supposed to get you out of your comfort zone, and allow for personal growth and development. Kinda like Shrek leaving his beloved swamp to stay in the castle in Far, Far Away, I was thrust into a world not of my own. Benjamin Franklin put it best here, “A countryman between two lawyers is like a fish between two cats.” As I lived this experience, I looked for things that I could relate. My comfort thing, I guess. Riding the metro kinda offers me something to which I can relate. Screeching brakes and the doors opening is the signal to get on or get off, depending on which side of the door you are situated. Watching 30 people wedge themselves through a 36” wide door is kinda like watching cattle go through a tub and squeeze chute. It’s probably about as pleasant for both species, although I can’t speak for the cow. Although the NY Times say the cattle have it better.
Once we were herded through the city on this cattle trailer/metro, we found ourselves amongst the political elite. Here a pecking order is firmly established. Just like the first day you put all your bulls in the bull pasture after breeding, dominance emerges. Sure there are a few headbutts, a little pushing, a little measuring, but overall everyone “knows” their place. Soon, all the bulls are good ‘ol buddies, sharing a few blades of grass. Separate them for one day, and we gotta do it all over again, sorta like election year.
We all had the chance to visit a special interest group. These groups lobby for their respective membership/industries. Here where Washington gets its reputation. Each group is vying for time with someone who can make their lives “better.” One day, like the bulls, they are best friends. Tomorrow, when a different agenda needs to be taken up, the pushing and head-butting begins. Each group sets up their defense around their postion; much like Bud Fosters defense, they work to “protect this house.” Although, politicians and lobbyist may not see eye to eye, just like the bulls need the herd, they recognize they need each other to get things done.
Now I know my view of Washington is a bit cynical, but doesn’t history teach us to be a little bit cynical? As James Madison said, “Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions.” Here we must not abdicate our responsibility of governance to lobbyist, politicians, and staffers; we must engage. “For any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain and most fools do,” said Benjamin Franklin.
You can start to see a theme in my thinking. I don’t like people telling me how to live; likewise I don’t want to tell people how to live. My freedom also includes me being free from you. While I may find the political process overall distasteful, it is the world in which we live. We don’t have a choice but to engage. Otherwise, we lose in the “pecking” order of Washington. Then I’m no longer free from you, and most are just left complaining and condemning like the fools Mr. Franklin referred to in his famous quote.
On a lighter note, I’ll post one of my favorite quotes from Mr. Franklin. Often found in college apartments, this quote reminds us that our founders had a sense of humor, too. No point in taking yourself too seriously, cause we ain’t getting out this life alive.
A few pics from around town taken by other Fellows