Something ridiculous happens to the average American the second they go to D.C., especially the average American college student. I'm calling it "DCyndrome" and, quite frankly, I'm getting annoyed with it.
I have several friends in different work programs around D.C., and they were very nice, loving, happy people…until they went to D.C. Now, all they talk about is how cool they are and what they got to do and how they've apparently made it so much further than any of the rest of their buddies back in the sticks because they've "arrived" in the nation's capital.
D.C. is a legend in the minds of Americans. It's built up as something larger than life: It's the core of our nation's enormous power! The epicenter of freedom and democracy! Ground zero of America's mythical history! And it's the breeding ground for egotistical power-hungry 20-somethings.
Maybe it's because for our entire academic lives we're told we have to seize every opportunity to "build the resume" and prove to everyone else why we're "so it" above and beyond anyone else.
Sure, we should be building our resumes, presenting ourselves well and taking advantage of excellent opportunities. But it's supposed to happen honestly and with a spirit of service. You should simply want to be the best person you can personally be. That's what it means to truly serve.
It's the joke around D.C. that people become "a suit" and there's truth to that. But it's the attitude behind growing into "the suit" that bothers me most.
Suddenly, when they have a taste of power, these students think they know all and can advise top governmental agencies (and often do, at least on their personal blogs), with the ultimate conclusion that they are owed this job or position because they're "elite." And somehow D.C. would cease to function without their brilliant insights.
It's when this spiteful, arrogant, shove-everyone-else-out-of-their-way attitude starts overflowing that it just becomes ridiculous. It fosters a very crude competitive spirit and encourages BS-ing instead of working together as a team and owning up to the fact that, yes, as students, we really don't know everything and are probably going to need help sometimes.
It's good to encourage academic-minded students to take advantage of opportunities such as working in D.C. and learning about government and public service. But I hope that we all keep in mind that building our resume or taking advantage of opportunities isn't to get more power or prestige for ourselves. It's to learn the most that we can so that we will be able to serve the best that we can.
I hope we can all learn from each other instead of getting caught up in the "DCyndrome" atmosphere that pops up all around the nation…not just in its capital.