DC is a swamp. It’s true, it was built on a marshy tidal basin. The logic of the Founding Fathers focused on its placement between the agricultural South and the commerce-driven North, at the intersection of two major rivers, not unlike the Tigris and Euphrates surrounding the cradle of civilization in ancient Mesopotamia. Those Founding Fathers had a flair for the dramatic, as DC’s particular rivers are somewhat slow and stagnant, cradling a lot of mosquitos and some intrepid kayakers (see, the Electoral College for other bright ideas).
And yes, it gets humid about 100% of the time, summer, winter or otherwise. It snows in one giant dump a year that renders us incapable of response. Otherwise it’s muggy, rainy, and hot as hell in the summers. It’s not that close to either mountains or ocean, and the reputation for Northern hospitality with Southern efficiency may or may not be accurate, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.
But it seems to escape those screaming to “drain the swamp” that we did not choose it. The nation was given a muddy backwater and instead of getting stuck or complaining, on it we built a city of great power and beauty (well, slaves built much of it, to be clear). We took this swamp and made something remarkable out of it-made it strong enough to hold the marble tonnage of the Lincoln Memorial, and the societal change of the March on Washington in 1965. It’s easy to criticize this swamp from afar, but those who do don’t spend their time here, toiling in the hard work of the nation, up to our necks in bureaucracy (a saving grace right now) and trying each day to make something better for other people. On the streets of this swamp, men and women from every single country in the world come together to try and make a difference. In this swamp, I am always the dumbest person in a room, and being in that position causes us all to up our game, constantly.
So when I hear people talk about “draining the swamp” I want to ask them what they think that swamp is holding up. Do they understand it’s supporting the political and practical infrastructure of this entire nation? That our ideals, or meaning as a nation, is embedded in every muddy inch of this swamp? That you can’t gut something and expect it to live? But I know the answer: that’s the point. Those who see this place as only a swamp are not interested in saving our nation. They’re interested in the nation that comes after it. Instead of striving together towards a more perfect union, they’d rather watch it all go down the drain, leaving a sucking hole in its wake.
Not on my watch.
Something in me changed after the election, and my feelings toward this place solidified. It is far from perfect. I won’t argue that. I wish there were more late night dining options and that the Metro didn’t light on fire whenever it rained. But you don’t get to call it a swamp if you’re not in it, doing the work. History is made by those who show up, and I have lost every bit of patience for those who are not willing to put their necks on the line , but complain about the way the work is done. How about instead of draining the swamp, you come lend your hand to the sand bag line stemming the tide from overtaking us? But you want the tide to turn. I see that now. I understand it. It is a lesson I will not soon forget. But this swamp water is murky, and those who would seek to drain it will swiftly find out (are finding out) they are out of their depth.