(3 minute read)
What a time to visit Washington! Everything seems to be in order…
At the time of planning the trip that was the case. Then Brexit happened. Then Trump happened.
Our third and shortest stop in the States. This was a brief brush with the capital and for me a stay that could easily have been longer. Surrounded by buildings and monuments of national importance we felt a little reflective of our trip, the past year and what brought us here.
Washington can come across as seemingly stoic. A mixture of imposing architecture, manicured streets and bellowing patriotism. Our first drink at a local bar introduced us to the locals. Everyone suited up, like every contestant from the Apprentice, ever, in one room. All talking shop about this and that. Meetings, stuff, things, pre-empting each other, always in the know. A world of bravado proudly living up to its reputation.
A few weeks later we travelled through the countryside counting US flags (20-25 over a 30 minute drive). This was sparsely populated land but highlighted a belief in a shared concept. Simple, bold statements, each repeating the other
The more we travelled the more we became aware of this feeling. It was especially evident in Washington, but also from our own lives. Either by choice or chance you find yourself surrounded by those of similar views. Something amplified by ‘social media’ as each platform looks to supply you with the information and entertainment it believes you crave. Before you know it, you’re sitting in the corner of your bedroom in nothing but your pants in an ‘echo chamber’. The ‘chamber’ can be powerful and deceptive, and in both the Brexit and Trump votes it appears to have had substantial effect.
The keys to the Chamber…
Consciously, but not forcefully, we are trying to step out of its influence (picture Austin Powers performing a 24-point turn in the ‘The Spy Who Shagged Me’). Hearing the other side of any argument is essential to being able to make a sound decision. Part of an ability to engage with opposing views, understand them and come to a compromise. At the moment it is as though that word, ‘compromise’, has become strangely dirtied.
Many times on our trip we were given warnings of the ‘other side’. As though something terrible would happen if we spoke to ‘them’ (I didn’t always know which side we were on at the time of conversation). At the same time these same people were incredibly warm, kind and funny. A lot of times either at a bar or cafe we had great conversations about all manner of things. We were even given an unexpected ride across town to a recommended favourite bar. The expectation of others could create an unnecessary weariness. That once crossed, disappeared entirely as a wasteful shadow. A ruse!
We were always keen to meet ‘those others’ but never did. Perhaps they were lost somewhere or just talking to themselves?
Supposedly we are not to engage in talk of politics or religion, but that probably doesn’t mean we shouldn’t engage in any conversation at all.
As we embark on this journey of learning we are conscious of the perception of ‘sustainable living’ and the various things related to it. We hope as we travel and meet people we can hear from all sides to truly understand the landscape ahead.