Washington gets a bad rap. Every time I hear a politician talk about the dysfunctional behavior of this government town, every time a tea-partier spews venomous vitriol about DC politics, and each and every time our so-called “leaders” distance themselves from Washington, I think about the great minds who left their inspiring words here in the nation’s capital. It is as though the whining politicians have never set foot on the National Mall, or if they have, they are too busy professing some concocted ideology to read the writing on the wall. Let me assure you, this is not about patriotism, this is about learning and absorbing and reflecting on the great minds of history to confront and resolve the seemingly insurmountable political problems that threaten to upend everything the founders ever dreamed in their moments of inspiration.
Which leads me to the recent controversy over House Whip Steve Scalise from Louisiana who spoke to a group of David Duke White Supremacists some years ago, unknowing of their racist, hateful ideologies. Hardly. We’re talking about the South, where outgoing Senator Mary Laundrieu just received a mere 18% of the white vote to lose the election. That in a nutshell is what is poisoning our political system: the white supremacist, racist, Obama-hating Republican fervor that permeates the South and many other parts of the country. And their ever-present-credo that America is a Christian Nation is a sorry leitmotif that underscores their intolerance and hatred of the Other.
On this New Year’s Day, a day when we attempt to think on a loftier plane, I am reminded of Thomas Jefferson’s words that boldly declared we are NOT a Christian Nation, nor a country of any one specific religion. We are a country of all religions, including Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, and yes, Agnostics and Non-Believers as well. This is precisely what separates us from countries that threaten their citizens for not living up to some prevailing religious code. I will repeat Jefferson’s words, which need to be read and reread time and time again by everyone:
“All men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion.”
I urge everyone to come here to Washington, where it is possible to filter the noise and the vitriol by taking a stroll through the National Mall, to contemplate the words that were left here by men and women who saw this town as a stage for the wildest flights of hope, imagination and possibility. On this New Year’s day we should concentrate on that hope and the words bravely encoded in our system by revolutionary minds.