- The Washington Times - Monday, July 20, 2015


While few admit it, the Washington, D.C. area has about as much in common with the real America as John Phillips Sousa’s marches have to do with rap music. We live in a very weird bubble. Virtually everyone has a government job or a job that exists in the private sector only because of the government. We’re obsessed with politics and many of us spend hours at our televisions watching Fox, MSNBC, or CSPAN and public television.

The average D.C. area professional couple makes enough money to upset Bernie Sanders and spends time obsessing about things like the Confederate flag, transgender rights and the plight of birds and snails that most American don’t even know exist. Our neighbors are installing solar panels, damning the American ingenuity that allows us to continue to fuel our cars, and parsing words so as not to blame Muslim zealots for attacks on Marine recruiting offices.

The rest of the country or, at least most of the rest of the country, is vastly different. That’s why it’s so important that elected officials go home to their constituents lest they become part of the city in which they work rather than the states or districts that send them here. It’s just as important for the rest of us to get a feel for the country outside the bubble in which we live and work instead of dismissing the importance of what elitists refer to as “flyover” country on the way to places like San Francisco and Seattle.

I head west every summer, visiting family in the Midwest and spend a week or two further west with people who, shocking as it may be to a Washingtonian, never voluntarily bring up politics. They are more concerned about raising their kids and whether they can make ends meet next month than whether Scott Walker, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is leading in the polls. When they take their families to a Fourth of July celebration it’s not just for the fireworks, but to actually celebrate the founding and survival of the nation they consider not just exceptional, but the freest and best in the history of the world — and to thank God they are Americans.

They aren’t oblivious to the country’s flaws, but they continue to believe in the American dream and, like their forebears, are problem-solvers rather than worriers. In Washington, the glass may always seem half empty, but in the rest of the country, it appears more than half full even to those who drive Chevies and Fords rather than BMWs.

The stark contrast in values and attitudes was brought home to me earlier this month during a Missouri River fishing trip near Fort Benton, Mont. A friend was bitten by a huge rattlesnake in a remote area with no cellphone service. By the time we found a ferryman with a land line, he was in pain and mostly numb. We were still at least an hour from the nearest hospital.

The hospital dispatched a helicopter for what they call a “mercy flight” while the dispatcher told us to get to the highest meadow so they could spot us and land when they arrived. As we waited, first one and then more vehicles came roaring up the mountain. The driver of the first told us that when he heard what happened he was playing in the yard with his kids, but since his wife is a registered nurse, he told the kids to get in the truck, ran into the house to get her and brought her up to help. By the time the helicopter arrived, there were three other nurses on hand. It was incredible. Everyone who heard there was a problem rushed out not to gape, but to help.

The night before, a drugged-up 18-year-old stabbed a man to death while onlookers stood on both sides of a Metro car in the District. In January, a 77-year-old man collapsed and died of a heart attack across from a District fire station while people who banged on the door seeking help were turned away.

In the real America that wouldn’t have happened.

When I thanked those who had rushed out to help us, the father who had been the first to arrive put it as well as anyone: “No need,” he said. “Out here, we all look after each other.”

David A. Keene is Opinion editor of The Washington Times.

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