If tomorrow all the things were gone I’d worked for all my life, and I had to start again, with just my children and my wife. I’d thank my lucky stars, to be livin here today, ‘cause the flag still stands for freedom, and they can’t take that away. And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me. And I gladly stand up, next to you and defend her still today.‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land, God bless the USA. I have worked in government affairs for about 20 years, and when I hear the lyrics to a song like Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA I am generally pretty jaded.
Working in the political milieu day in and day out can make you wonder what democracy really is, and often why on earth you care at all. Let’s face it, there are a lot of problems with government and we are constantly waging what seems to be an endless war to help all of our clients stay in business. This is true if you are on my side of an issue, or on the opposition. When I go to Washington, I am usually on a war footing – going to meetings, discussing strategy, complaining about the opposition, etc. What I almost never do is go to Washington and enjoy it.
This weekend my wife and I spent a couple of days off in the Nation’s capital, going to the museums, walking on the mall, enjoying some nightlife. It was the first time in a long time that I looked up and saw what most people who visit DC see – a tremendous showcase city filled with national treasures, and monuments that show why so many people still see American as a shining light on a hill.
This weekend I saw the other people in Washington. There was the Ethiopian cab driver (now a citizen) who told me how lucky I was to have grown up in this country. There was the family getting together at a restaurant to celebrate a son’s college graduation. There were the dozens of teen groups fascinated by the treasures in the Smithsonian museums – the father with his two kids explaining how our government worked. All of these people saw Washington not as a den of regulators and tax collectors, but as a place of pilgrimage, a national shrine, a place that they had waited for years to come and experience.
Sometimes, when you work with politics, taxes, regulations, and policy you need to step back and see the country as others do. This weekend I got to do that – and it made me proud to be an American again.