The ability to write history and determine how one is cast in its light is always the dream of politicians and wheeler-dealers. Paul Offner, in his article “D.C. General Defibrillation” (7/7), presents himself as the noble knight thwarted at every turn by the Demon Fairman in the battle for quality health care in the District of Columbia. It certainly is not difficult to join the lynching party once the rope has been placed around a neck. There are, however, still people and players in this epic who have another version of the real story. Rather than boil all this down to power politics and finger-pointing, energy should be expended upon grappling, tackling, and consistently correcting the laundry list of problems Offner so easily identified.
My reaction to this article, as well as others relating to the operations of my city, is to raise some questions. Why and how did it take so long (five years, according to Offner) for everyone to realize that the Public Benefits Corp. was in shambles? Who is running this horse-and-pony show anyway? As a District resident, I have seen blame impotently placed on too many occasions—is it Congress, the D.C. Council, the agency administrator, the mayor who is responsible for this mess? Well, folks, when you have a city with the design of this one, where any and all of the above legally have an opportunity to play God or chief or decision maker, this is exactly what you get. Why can’t we see the repeating pattern? There is nothing inherently wrong with this city or its residents—it’s just that we’re not full citizens, so in the final analysis we are not in control. The design of this city is flawed, and you cannot expect an exemplary product from a defective blueprint—unless you habitually believe in serendipity.
My family has been in the District of Columbia for more than 175 years, and I am really tired of this city being portrayed as inherently incompetent, stupid, or undeserving of self-rule. I’ve traveled the world, and, believe me, Washington is not a bad place to be. My problem is that you cannot expect people to fix something while at the same time refusing them the means. If all stays the same, I guess I’ll just wait until the next person tells us how once again we’ve had the wool pulled over our eyes. The question is, Who is fooling whom?