Blaming the Capital instead of the Capitol

Photo courtesy of
‘Capitol in selenium’
courtesy of ‘Joe in DC’

One of the things you learn early on in DC is the difference between the Capitol and the Capital.

One’s the building, with all the trappings of government: politicians, lobbyists, fundraisers, campaigners, PACs, Super PACs, Super de Duper PACs, officials, administrators, agencies, etc.

One is the city, with all the trappings of urbanity: monuments, federal buildings, sure, but also neighborhood bars, victorian homes, housing projects, small businesses, grocery stores, and hundreds of thousands of people.

This weekend, one journalist forgot the difference, and in a fit of pique (and a glass or two of wine) blamed the Capital city for the sins of the Capitol.  Jeff Jarvis is a journalism professor at NYU, and late Friday tweeted his ire.  It spawned a hashtag, #fuckyouwashington, that resonated with many, and for most of the weekend it remained amid the trending topics on the social network.

It’s understandable to be frustrated at the government deadlock over the debt ceiling. We’re just a week or so away from defaulting as a country, which would likely throw the stuttering recall into a freefall. The game of political chicken that’s currently underway has every chance to be one with fallout and casualties across the country. It’s right to be upset with.

But here’s the thing: Don’t blame the city, when the people fighting this out are from all over. They’re the least Washington of all of us, in many cases eschewing community participation in exchange for sleeping in their offices and staying away from the rest of this wonderful city.

I know what Jarvis said. I know what he meant. He meant to blame the Capitol, but what he did instead was blame the Capital.

Yes, I know that for many outside the ten miles square, Washington is synonymous with the Capitol, with the governance process for good or ill. It’s a lazy shorthand, and the city deserves better.

When you consider that the people that Jarvis is angry with are sent here by every state in the Union except our own district. We have no meaningful representation in the Capitol, we have no control over what they do, so you can’t blame the Capital for the sins of the Capitol, Jeff Jarvis. I think we all stand with Heather Goss, who said this weekend, “Whoever started #fuckyouwashington instead of #fuckyoucongress can, you know, go #fuckthemselves, too, eh?”

Right on, Heather. Right on.

I live and work in the District of Columbia. I write at We Love DC, a blog I helped start, I work at Technolutionary, a company I helped start, and I’m happy doing both. I enjoy watching baseball, cooking, and gardening. I grow a mean pepper, keep a clean scorebook, and wash the dishes when I’m done. Read Why I Love DC.

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5 thoughts on “Blaming the Capital instead of the Capitol

  1. the sad this is that mr. jarvis doesn’t want to admit there is nuance here. he wants to beat you over the head, tom, and tell you that you’re an idiot for not just going along with his drunken tweetstorm and daring to question what he smugly thinks is the best writing since war and peace

  2. Nicely said, Tom. Now that I’m out of Washington and I have to deal with Florida’s pathetic critters trying at every cost to cling to their Washington offices, I send you my condolences and hope we can send less-offensive people to your fair city after the next election.

  3. I gotta be honest, who gives a fuck? If you didn’t know that when he said “Washington” he meant “The United States Government and Associated Parties” and not the actual city of Washington, D.C.. Then you’re stupid enough to be in the capitol.

  4. So we should be cool with it when someone says they “jew’d em down a few bucks” and nobody is entitled to think they “gyped” is offensive to the Romany? After all, we know what they’re really talking about, right?

    Of course everyone knew what he means, Jon, but that doesn’t mean everyone we can’t be irked to be drive-by-slandered by Jarvis’ lazy language.

    We’re not surprised when, say, random internet commenters with questionable parentage are overtly insulting to people they disagree with and unable to manage proper punctuation when using the initials of our fine city. But writing is Jarvis’ business and calling him out on badmouthing all of us when that’s not who he means is fair game.