America! Who needs it? It’s merely an insane collection of 50 divergent personalities who like to send their biggest blowhards to our city in vain attempts to transform the rest of the country into something that looks more like their backwater locales. (Do we really want to live in a world lorded by the principles of places like Frog Jump, Tenn. or Albany, N.Y.?) Which state is best? Which is the worst? Gawker bravely stepped up to the challenge last week in an attempt to define the “Worst 50 States in America.”
In other words, everywhere you go around this great, big nation of ours, it’s going to suck at least a little.
That’s right, with all the votes tallied—-New York, thankfully, came out looking best (or maybe least bad)—-it appears that Gawker has inadvertently declared D.C. the best place in the country. In this case our lack of statehood spared us from Gawker’s snarky judgment. That’s a bit of a relief—-the gossip site’s editors certainly could have run wild with, say, our wacky city government, woeful sports teams, glut of overactive interns, rampant gentrification, and sometimes questionable creative class. In 2009, then-Gawker editor Alex Pareene tried to make the case D.C. would “never be cool,” hinging most of his argument on the fact that after the excitement of the Dischord era, all that remained was “uh, Ian Svenonius (the Sassiest Boy in America!).” And this was before Svenonius became a cruise director.
But, no statehood means we can’t be judged as one of the country’s worst states in Gawker’s recent round of America-bashing. Still, it’s a little unfair. The District might not have Congressional representation, but we’re still on the mainland and still have as many votes in the Electoral College as Vermont (No. 47), North Dakota (No. 20), Wyoming (No. 19), Montana (No. 18), South Dakota (No. 16), and Alaska (No. 11). It’s not like D.C. is some distant protectorate. It makes one speculate where D.C. might have landed on Gawker’s list.
Setting aside Pareene’s outdated Washington-bashing, we probably would have been somewhere in the middle considering the placement of other mid-Atlantic states. (The list was, predictably for something written by a bunch of Internet snobs, tilted toward the Northeast and Pacific Northwest.) Virginia came in at No. 39, though largely on the back of someone at Gawker headquarters having a soft spot for Arlington, while Maryland fared slightly worse at No. 33—-crab cakes and The Wire good, The Blair Witch Project and inner-city Baltimore bad. Further out, Pennsylvania and North Carolina both finished in the 30s, though Delaware came in as the sixth-worst state. Still, if D.C. were arbitrarily assigned the average of its immediate neighbors, coming in 36th would have us bumping off Illinois.
But we’ll never know, will we? Discarded because of a centuries-old constitutional oversight, the District of Columbia trumps the 50 states in Gawker’s silly, self-congratulatory geographic rankings. A list of the “Worst 50 States in America”? Put us down at No. 51, with an asterisk.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery