Monday, September 19, 2011

Awe Is Such A Challenging Mountain To Climb

Washington, D.C. and Me (1961 – 2011)

January, 2009: Upon returning from South America, "The Study Of The Possible Human In The Possible Society Within The One Hundred Mile Radius Of The Washington, D.C. White House" came into being.   

I didn’t particularly enjoy my sojourn to South America in November and December, 2008. But it had been an all expenses paid trip at a point when I had nothing more pressing to do. My assignment had been to accompany a coaching client of mine to Ecuador while she attended to a personal matter. So I packed my bags and off I went, open to the experience.

Besides feeling wearied by the daily demands of my professional duties, I had little to show for the trip, upon my return, other than a mild case of Montezuma’s revenge and some brilliantly colored, indigenous crafted works. It had been an interesting passing of time. And, I had returned enlightened in a number of ways. Not the least being that the South Americans I had met were more than a bit curious as to the significance we Americans were attaching to the election of our first African American president.

As I had made a ritualized return to Washington, D.C. via Metro rail on the Friday following Obama’s election, I could not dismiss, out of hand, the impact this election had made on me. A surge of joy and hope had precipitated the pilgrimage. Long ago, on the heels of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., even a love of the city I had come to call home, could not engage my optimism about hanging out in D.C.. Certainly not enough to attract my former youthful anticipation.

Like many others who came to fear a trip into the district, after the riots, I grew accustomed to avoiding D.C. if I could. Part of the difficulty for those who, like myself, worked in Washington, was that avoidance was more easily said than done. I still had an office at 18th and K so I could not just up and avoid it. (See "Extended Biography" section at this link. I was not yet a psychotherapist but very much involved in the Washington, D.C. fast track life.) Yet many of us began to look to the Virginia and Maryland suburbs for our comings and goings. Over time, I believe, we did not even notice the change in our entertainment and local travel habits that evolved.

As Washington burned, amidst the riots after King’s assassination, I watched from my high rise apartment building near the Pentagon. At first I thought the smoky haze I was seeing only an uprising of flour from the Washington Flour Company in Georgetown just across the river. Of course, I was wrong. Washington was burning and with those riots so were the dreams of Camelot for which I had come here.

Thus I was not fool enough any longer to invest in ideals, particularly of politicians, without proof by actions. Though Obama’s election inspired me, I had been around the Washington game too long to attach much credence to the promised changes ahead. No Messiah was expected by me from the man. No Gandhi, Martin Luther King or even another JFK was anticipated. I had been there and done that. My innocence had been shattered by assassinations; Watergate the final act for me.

Still I am an optimist by nature. Though I thought Obama naïve, I was all about giving this upstart new president the best support I could muster. So, upon my return from South America, I set out to discover, by doing a study, how the other constituents within a one hundred mile radius of the White House might walk their walk, if we were truly about supporting Mr. Obama’s promises. I knew plenty of other folks who would do their utmost also. Still I had seen changes in administration come and go. I kind of figured I knew what to expect of the talkers.

I had, however, a lot of other priorities on my desk so the study sat on the shelf. Then in late July of this year, in the midst of the massive political polarization of the debt ceiling debates, it beckoned to me.

“Use me! Use me! the study called out to me from its place on my shelf. And, I listened, took heed and some action.

Now that little idea that came to me as I unpacked my belongings from my trip to Ecuador is off and running like a fast moving hurricane. Check it out. Keep pace with its progress as off it goes.

Where it will land nobody knows. However, knowing Washington politics, as I do, some of what we shall see should be fairly predictable. On the other hand, who could have foretold that which September 11, 2001 would bring us or the morning after when we Americans came together for a brief time.

After all, whoever said that climbing the Mountain of Awe was anything short of climbing Mt Everest and then some.

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