Peter Rosenberger: Washington politicians fail to see the country they govern

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America is more beautiful than Washington, D.C. 

The malignant environment of our nation’s capital sadly seems to unfairly brand America. The dysfunction and self-interest promulgated by the media and elected officials spewing rancor into every headline and microphone all too often drowns out the quiet whisper of America’s greatness.

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Moving from Nashville to southwest Montana, my wife, Gracie, and I recently drove across the country and disconnected from the news emanating from a tiny section of the nation and rediscovered a portion of America’s vast beauty and majesty.

Photo courtesy of the author 

Photo courtesy of the author 

Leaving Music City, we traveled through the rolling hills of Tennessee and Kentucky to the farmlands of southern Illinois. Although well-traveled, Gracie lamented sleeping through the one time she passed through St. Louis as a teenager -- and missed seeing the Arch.  With bright eyes, she gazed at the iconic landmark as we drove through the Show Me state while making our way West.

Sunsets in Iowa over well-kept farms that feed countless lives touched our hearts, and the wind whipping the plains in South Dakota offered reminders of loveliness overlooked by so many. We both tried to imagine the early settlers trekking across the vast plains in wagons -- with little else but courage.

Yet America is so much more than amber waves of grain and purple mountains. While rivers, lakes, fields, and forests all convey pristine landscapes, a greater wealth resides in the land of the free and the home of the brave: the people.

Kim, a manager-trainer at a Kansas City Pizza Hut, shared her excitement and nervousness at taking on a new job and path in her 50s.

Cassie in Kentucky secured two items we left in a hotel and mailed them to us with great enthusiasm and graciousness.

As a double-amputee with significant additional health challenges, the journey for my wife wasn’t an easy one, but at a Supercuts in Sioux City, Celeste washed and blow-dried Gracie’s hair. Yes, that’s her job, but it’s one thing to do a job, and quite another to do it with compassion and tenderness like Celeste.

From hotel managers ensuring disability accommodations to drive through attendants at fast food restaurants, we experienced numerous Americans quietly modeling pride in their job and an eagerness to serve others.

What a contrast to the culture of Washington, D.C.  I’ve been to the nation’s “alabaster” capital often and while I love the history, one couldn’t help but notice many of the political and media figures spending so much time posing and posturing, while their staffers remained buried in smartphones -- ignoring America while trying to restructure it to their liking.

Tuning out Washington allowed America’s voice to be heard.

America requires cherishing -- not redesigning. Ranches throughout Wyoming and Montana reveal the constant need for work and improvement without the need to abolish the ranches. That same concept of stewardship should apply to America.

Although elected officials refer to themselves as public servants, all too many appear to be neither.

Being in the public eye doesn’t mean one engages the public. Ensconced behind microphones, cameras, security details, and self-interests prohibits engagement of a public worthy of knowing.  Caring for and addressing someone’s plight is not easily done when detached from them (except at election time.)

As the primaries approach, media and politicians would be better served if they didn’t go to Iowa for political reasons, but instead, just went to Iowa.

Our states aren’t red or blue; they’re part of the fabric of our nation. Touching and valuing them for more than personal or party gain would result in better news, better legislation, and better public servants -- and maybe instill a better love of our country that while flawed, remains extraordinary in history.

Washington’s dysfunction may be well due to being peripherally situated too far from the country. It’s a shame that too many in Washington fail to see the country they seek to govern.

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Despite all the statues, plaques, marble, and pomp of our nation’s capital, America is more beautiful than Washington -- not just the landscapes and vistas but the beauty of a people who value both national and personal freedom, along with stewardship and responsibility.

Happy Birthday, America.