From Hollywood to Capitol Hill

28 August, 2010.

I look out the window before my airplane lands in Dulles airport, and there it stands: Washington D.C. There it stands—again, just as it did three years ago when I last visited. There it stands, with its unique landscape that seems so familiar after watching its landmarks blown to pieces in movies, seeing television characters dash through their busy streets and historical buildings doing fictional politics, listening to stories of success and power-play around and about the legendary “Capitol Hill” from friends and family, and visiting the town just as a tourist three years ago. All those thoughts and memories, my own and those I borrow, materialize in the view of the Capitol, the White House, and the monuments of the National Mall. And out of the mix comes something else, which strikes me as new—expectations. Before, I had come with the mere intention of exploring the city, more accurately known as sightseeing. Now I come not only with expectations but also with a mission: to become a part of that mythic Washington D.C., of which image academics, folklore, and pop culture have constructed for me.

I just lived three months in Los Angeles, “the entertainment capital of the world,” and now I will spend the next five as a resident and player in the political capital of the United States. Despite the difference in titles and the disparity in stature (considering that the power and issues dealt with in Washington are far more significant than those belonging to Hollywood’s showbiz), both cities give me the same impression: that past all the dynamism, high-energy idealism, and big decisions, the people behind those decisions, both in Washington and Los Angeles, share a world dominated by power and public opinion. In other words, politicians are actors, favor-bankers, and attention whores as much as the celebrities of Hollywood are, for they both depend of the media in order to reach out to the public and extract their so-needed and so-coveted power and reputation—and I will be part of that empowering media here in D.C. just as I was in L.A. and as I will continue to be in my professional career.

Whether I will love or loathe Washington, ultimately I come for more than simply to live here—I intend to grasp the spirit of the capital, which at the same time fascinates me and inspires me (at least its representations) not only because D.C.’s political intricacies can be considered interesting on their own, but also because I know that even the smallest decisions and events that unfold here could have a phenomenal impact in the world and in the making of history.

Aerial_view_of_the_Capitol_Hill

 

1 September, 2010.

With so many monuments and museums throughout D.C., one can hardly miss the fact that the town represents American history itself. But when admiring its greatness from the top of the Washington Monument, one can only be certain that D.C. not only represents but also constitutes history. To a degree, that view of the town puts everything into perspective while teaching one thing—the poetry of the city. By that I don’t necessarily refer to the lyrical verses that poets have written. Rather, I mean the poetry that the city itself writes: its poesis, its “making,” which in D.C. most definitely corresponds to history, for nowhere else does history come to life and influence the unfolding of present as it does here. But more importantly, that poetry has meant something more than history—it has been the making of a great nation of balanced flaws and outstanding virtues.

I am convinced, nevertheless, that the Founding Fathers have not been the sole authors of that poetry as many might believe. The Founding Fathers definitely provided the blueprints for the construction of a great nation, but they were far from being the only builders. The town itself, with all its monuments and memorials, reminds us that every person who has risen to the call of duty has contributed to the authorship of that poetry known as the history of the United States. From the exemplary presidents immortalized in the National Mall (who have been elevated to heroic, if not divine, status with their Greco-Roman monuments), to the “anonymous soldier” honored every day at Arlington Cemetery, to everyone buried at Section 60 and throughout the whole cemetery, they are all the poetic authors of an ideal of a nation. It has been their heroism and leadership, and the everyday decisions and sacrifices of most people, that have authored and will continue to author, as Whitman wrote, “the United States…essentially the greatest poem.”

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