Sunset at Washington DC
On a visit to Washington DC, I was reminded of that old phrase, “the sun never sets on the British Empire”.
Walking down the National Mall, the sun was setting behind the Lincoln Memorial, casting an orange glow before darkness fell over America’s seat of government.
It may seem a little bit tacky but the symbolism of the sun setting on the United States couldn’t be ignored.
There’s a strong argument to be made that the superpower’s influence around the world is waning as the US finds itself powerless to tackle within its own borders a deep inequity that calls into question the fundamental standards on which it has stood for so long.
I promise this will be the last of this series of political essays (and I know those of you who want more stories about restaurants that serve penis will be pleased to hear that).
However, I can’t ignore the thoughts that a trip to the capital raises.
Even as I stood there with other tourists taking photos of the White House, protesters gathered around us with placards and pamphlets.
They weren’t shouting, they weren’t angry. They weren’t the ‘smelly unpatriotic communists’ that some people like to paint a picture of.
They were young and educated and wanted to explain to people that the building with all the security around it housed the people who could make a change in this country.
If that change is to come, it needs to come from the people and be for the people.
Young Americans are told that the United States is the land of opportunity because anyone could make it to the Oval Office one day. They’re also told that anyone could one day be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
What they’re not told, though, is that in today’s society that’s only possible if you’re willing to destroy the lives of other citizens along the way because those companies want executives who make money, not philanthropists who are more interested in the greater good of the population.
I can’t speak for all North America, but here it’s about the economy, stupid. Indeed it is… or more accurately, it’s about economics.
Everywhere in America decisions are made because it’s cheaper to do it that way or because it will lead to a greater income. That’s business, though, and companies have the right to want to make money.
So what they need is regulation from governments and that’s not what they’re getting.
Visiting Washington DC
The Washington Monument stands tall in the centre of the city, a beacon of the hope the founding fathers had in their country. If you get up close, though, you’ll see that cracks are starting to form between many of the bricks.
When I was there, a small boy walking with his father saw the cracks and asked whether the monument is going to fall down – a question his father dismissed as the naivety of a child.
It was a cute moment but it could also be an allegory for everything that is wrong and right about the system.
This boy’s father thought the question was silly because the obelisk in the mall is tall and strong and (presumably) because it is a national icon and no one would let that happen.
The boy, however, didn’t make blind assumptions and when he saw cracks he thought to question them.
If people in authority had questioned the cracks that started to form in America’s economy a few years ago, perhaps a financial crisis that has now consumed much of the Western world could have been avoided.
If so much faith hadn’t been put in establishments that were thought to be strong simply because they represented the entrepreneurship that once made America great, those establishments could have been fixed up and made even stronger.
Instead they crumbled and the rest, as they say, is the present.
This post is not intended as a definite declaration that the sun is metaphorically setting on the United States.
My opinion, though, is that the republic can only be made strong if everyone opens their eyes and accepts the problems with things like healthcare, regulation, inequality and unnecessary excess.
Twilight is a beautiful time of the day – there’s a reason there were so many people out on the National Mall with me taking photos.
But it’s a forbearer of darkness and once that descends there’s no option but to wait through the night until the sun again rises, as it inevitably does.