I have realized recently that, all of my Odes to DC notwithstanding, that I actually have not invested any effort in improving DC as a locality. I realized that all the things I love about DC are more "national" in nature (monuments, fireworks, Smithsonians, politics) than local (services, crime rates, water quality, politics). I realized that I don't love DC as a city, I love it as our nation's capital, which is not a good attitude to have when you have a child and a business and a house and a grandma who is frequently out in your neighborhood with your child during the day.
It became painfully obvious over the last week that something had to be done, after a couple of scary criminal incidents pretty close to my house had me ready to pack up and move, like, yesterday. I wondered how these things happen in a pretty decent neighborhood like mine, why the promised redevelopment of a majorly run-down street about 6 blocks from my house was taking so long to happen, etc etc. My brother, my family's very own Detective Sipowicz (I have no knowledge of any televised scenes of his naked butt, however), would tell me that the police can't do it alone. The neighborhood commissions would say that no one comes to their meetings. So, what to do?
It became clear that I had to get more involved locally if the random criminal acts were to be stopped, if I wanted to stop agonizing over whether Bambina would get into a "good" DC school via the insane DC school lottery system over the school in our neighborhood whose performance data would make your eyes bleed. If I wanted to stop agonizing over sending her to a private school, which I would really rather not do, being committed to public education, but also knowing that it is the insane parent who allows her kid to be the experiment on whether a school is working. If I wanted to feel truly connected to the other parents and residents of this bizarre but never-boring city. This city that could do and be so much more if only it could loose the chains holding it back: racism from others, racism toward others, old ways of thinking, a preternatural lack of confidence in its ability to succeed, both from within and without.
And how will that happen? Only if people who care actually get off their keesters and make it happen. I have shied away from getting involved in the past just because it seems like such an uphill battle all the time, trying to dislodge the decades-old way of doing things, the constant political drama and infighting that has no purpose other than creating division between people of different races, and feeling like your efforts are the equivalent of constantly trying to shovel ten pounds of sh*t into a five pound bag: pointless, stupid and stinking.
Well, yesterday we were doing our usual Saturday late morning walk in the outdoor market near the house. There were a variety of local candidates working the crowds in anticipation of the primaries in September and the general election in November. One candidate got our attention for one reason: his table featured lollipops. Orange lollipops to be precise. As in, Bambina's new favorite obsession: "oran bob! oran bob!"
So we stopped to pretend to be interested for reasons of straight-up lollipop pilferage. I didn't know this guy from Adam and was kind of focused on getting Bambina home since we'd been out and about for 4 hours already; local committee races were not the driving concern of my morning, notwithstanding my recent decision to start caring.
So we went up to the table to get a "campaign flyer." As I was about to say politely, "oh and may we have that orange lollipop?" Bambina bellows, 'Oran bob blease!" while pointing at the tootsie pops. Needless to say, the oran bob was hers in milliseconds along with oohs and aaahs that she said "please."
So I was about to make my graceful exit when a Michael J. Fox cutie patootie man shook my hand and told me he's the candidate. Great! Now I've got to talk to this guy! Grrr! Well..at least the oran bob will occupy Bambina for a few additional moments while I attempt to not look like the acquisitive and rude lollipop stealer I really am.
Turns out, he graduated from the college across the street from mine. He's a year older than me. He's completely in tune with what I consider to be my own primary concerns with the state of public education and safety in DC. His wife is Thai, so he will have inter-racial kids attending the public schools (and, more importantly for me, an understanding that DC can no longer divide along black/white lines; there are too many people who check more than two boxes on those stupid government forms [or refuse to check any] to have it be that mindless anymore). I ended up being so glad that we had stopped by to steal a lollipop, to have found a candidate that I not only support but like. (His cuteness having NOTHING to do with that, of course). ;)
So we're getting a lawn sign and I'm going to volunteer for his campaign. Crazy, huh? When he wins, I'm going to be honest with him and tell him that my initial interest came down, not because of his views, not his boyish good looks, not his forthright demeanor and genuineness in person.
Nope. It all came down to the fact that he was giving away free lollipops.