Back in 2011 or thereabouts, I happened to be in Washington D.C. to give a lecture. I met someone for lunch in a nice neighborhood, and on my way home took a wrong turn and got lost. Trying to find my way back to my hotel, I ended up driving through one neighborhood after another. These were fabulously expensive neighborhoods with beautifully landscaped yards. Workmen were everywhere, mowing lawns that looked like green carpeting, pushing wheelbarrows filled with new flowers to replace the ‘out of season’ ones, trimming bushes and trees, sweeping driveways, blowing leaves and miscellaneous debris into neat piles to be picked up. It was all so pristine.
I thought about my farm back home in Michigan with its dandelions, wildflowers, untrimmed trees, and the wildness of its fields. I thought about Detroit, and Flint, and the many abandoned houses I saw everywhere I went across the entire state. I thought about how I was struggling to hang onto my place, how everyone I knew was hurting financially, looking for work – any kind of work – when it suddenly struck me that the people in Washington D.C. had not even been touched by the financial collapse of 2008. They were living in a different world. They neither knew nor cared what was happening in Michigan.
I eventually found my way back, but the stark awareness of the ignorance of Washington D.C. about what it was like to lose your livelihood, your workplace, your security, and your home never left me. With the election of Trump, I wonder if Washington is going to have their own version of upheaval, loss of livelihood, workplace, security, and home.