Carols floated in the air Christmas night, as a little grandson slowly wore out of energy and fell fast asleep at Grammieâ€™s house. The radio music came not from Arlingtonâ€™s WETA, which now talk, talk, talks all day and night; but from Bethesdaâ€™s WGMS, the last bastion of seasonable, reasonable music, that soothed the young tyke to dreamland.
Upstairs, the rooftop heard no more prancing, rather the sound of BBC News, which told of the passing of James Brown, the man whose mantra, â€œSay it Loud; Iâ€™m Black and Iâ€™m Proud!â€ meant more than many of us realized to a generation of African-Americans.
The next day brought sad news a little closer to home: former President Gerald Ford, an orphan who grew up to be a congressman, who lived among us in Northern Virginia; an appointed vice president who fell into office when Richard Nixon resigned; died early in the evening of December 26. His humble accession to Chief Executive brought relief from evil corruption and a long-delayed end to the horror of Vietnam.
Remember the Crescent City, New Orleans? If thereâ€™s such a thing as the genocide of a city, what the government has done to the crown jewel of U.S. culture is certainly the victim of it. Our â€˜leader,â€™ generators and klieg lights in tow, â€˜rushedâ€™ to Jackson Square more than a year ago and made the promise: â€œwe will do what it takes,â€ he said. â€œWe will stay as long as it takes to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives.â€ Evacuees still beg for help to get home, but the checks to Halliburton contained no guarantee of return; just another buck to the monstrous corporation that lives off the federal trough.
On New Yearâ€™s the woefully tragic, heart-tugging photo on the front page of the big paper across the river seemed to sum up much of 2006: a fragile 19 year-old pored over the Arlington grave of her 19 year-old sweetheart, killed only six weeks after being sent to a war with no purpose.
If ever there was a time for citizen involvement in our government, it is now. We canâ€™t just â€œLet it Be.â€ Weâ€™ve got to step forward and demand change; demand humane policies and demand the elimination of the outrageous, trillion-dollar tax cuts that served to make the rich even richer. Reaping tax rewards while starving government; which exists to serve you and me, not gluttonous corporations and those who run them.
Thereâ€™s an Arlington Way that, for the most part, works. And the rest of the Commonwealth seemed to get a dose of it when Jim Webb turned out â€˜macacaâ€™ Allen. We have a responsibility to make government, beyond our county borders, work for the dispossessed and those in despair. For the working folks who are being crippled by the cost of health protection and are scared theyâ€™re going to lose their jobs. So much good could be done, if we each did our part to show to the nation what a people-centered government looks like. Guatemalan immigrant Jaimen Ortiz did his part when, as Seth Rosen reported, he rushed to catch a little two-year-old whoâ€™d fallen from her apartment window. He could have ignored her, but neither he nor any of us can take our eyes away from grief when we see it.
Letâ€™s sow hope this year and do our part to make this fragile green orb, glistening in the incomprehensible and never-ending universe, a refuge for all of humanity. Weâ€™re all in this together. So, letâ€™s roll up our sleeves and make this government the shining star of humanity it once was and can be again.
Nick Penning (www.nickpenning.com) is an Arlington freelance writer. His column, â€œPenning Thoughts,â€ appears in alternating editions of The Arlington Connection.