18 November 2010
There are things that make Washington, DC unique: things that make us different from every other city in the country and give us a sense of pride. It seems like that specialness, that uniqueness is slipping away from us in some ways. Is it all important? In some ways it is, and it others, it really isn't, but I wanted to note how I feel about these things, while the feelings are fresh.
I wanted to focus on the things we didn't have.
We didn't have handguns. Sure, "when you make handgun ownership a crime, only criminals will own handguns," was a phrase we all heard a million times, but most of agreed with the ban. It's gone now, not just for DC, but for any other municipality in the United States, thanks to the Supreme Court.
We didn't have voting rights in Congress. Fought like hell for it the last few years, with ideas that seemed ingenious and workable (a seat for us, a seat for Utah), only to come out with nothing. With the results of the election two weeks ago, the chances of that changing any time soon are less than zero.
We didn't have Walmart. So what? Neither do most cities, if you think about it. But this mostly left-leaning city decided multiple times, when the retailing behemoth made overtures about crossing the line and setting up shop, that we didn't want them here. For reasons related to labor, mostly, Walmart stood on the outside looking in. Most of us agreed with this (well, maybe not this lobbyist), but it looks like they've wiggled their nose far enough under the tent this time.
This one divides people in strange ways. Some are excited about the possibility that they won't have to travel out to Landover Hills to get some goods cheaper. Some are enraged that a company with a reputation for not being fair to workers could get a foothold in the city. Some fear what will happen to small business in the city. My biggest fear is that Walmart will be able to steamroll any opposition, and I don't mean regarding their existence here. I mean opposition to locations, or site layout and design, or wage deals. Their PR machine helicoptered in and was ready to go at 100 miles per hour before anyone even knew what was happening. If that doesn't convince you that the fix is in, then nothing likely will.
What really makes DC unique, especially when compared to surrounding jurisdictions, is that we're a real, dense, urban city. Montgomery, Prince George's, Fairfax—even Arlington—they're not the same thing. A lot of us live here, or moved here, because of the uniqueness of that, vis-a-vis those surrounding counties. Many had a choice to live in suburbia or to live in the city. I chose the city. It looks like suburbia has decided they want to be here too.
At the end of the day, the one thing we didn't have, and really fought for, we still don't have.