By Arthur H. Gunther III

WASHINGTON, D.C. — There are many ghosts in this town, some very good, some very, very bad, and a whole mix in between. Some do almost eternal penance for their sins against the continuing and great democratic experiment, those who lusted for personal power and in greed. Other spirits are here to protect the turf, to guard the hen house, and, yes, yes, to inspire us even as we feel so down.

These are not the best of days for America’s capital, indeed the seat of all democracy worldwide. Special interests, the money lobbies, overwhelming bureaucracy and way too many rules and regulations pervert this town, our land. The people’s business be damned.

We have a Congress that does not meet well in congress. It is a torn body of its own and grossly individual aims, of far-out politics, of non-cooperation. We also have a presidency seemingly neutered, with goals well-seconded by the people, with a president elected twice in that philosophy. Yet, the power that says it is the people’s legislative body would push this president into the Potomac.

So, nothing gets done. The middle class dwindles, and the rich grow ever more distant from the responsibility to better us all, that set by the great Republican himself, Teddy Roosevelt.

In our nation, so many with higher education or not are unemployed or underemployed. And the war bells seem to be ringing again, ironically as we near the 100th anniversary of the beginning of “The War to End All Wars,” World War I. Will there by more money for battle and so little for the nation at home?

Yes, a sad, even misdirected town, distant from its people, from the Founders. Yet it is still America’s city. I know, for I felt the presence of very good ghosts who reminded me that while lobbyists’ buildings grow in size and quantity on K Street, over at the Lincoln Memorial, at night with spotlights on the likeness of humble Abe, the crowds gather in equal humility and awe. Visit the memorial in the daytime, and it will offer its message of an America never to be divided, but see it at night, a beacon of light on the Great Emancipator alone in the great darkness covering its steps, and you will realize, profoundly, why this nation was born.
And why it must not die.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via This essay may be reproduced.