For the vast majority of American history, Washington, D.C., has served as a malaria-ridden swamp or brothel-laden tinderbox, full of woefully incomplete Roman-esque monuments. A place where the White House would burn down, presidents beat their would-be assassins with sticks in front of cheering cabinet members and congressmen, and lobbyists who disagreed with each other, shot each other.
Somewhere along the line, the tiny faux-city that is our nation’s capital got all damn self-serious and self-righteous.
We make our own ‘Beautiful People‘ lists, celebrate ourselves at an endless series of rubber-chicken awards ceremonies and gasp when someone from New York or L.A. says the White House Correspondents Dinner is overrated. Where did all the navel-gazing come from? Did winning two world wars and controlling a vast majority of the earth’s wealth and firepower finally get us believing our own press clippings? Do we, living in Washington, D.C., assume that since America is the greatest country on earth (unquestionable fact) that our tiny, recently gentrified capital, which accounts for 0.000001% of the nation’s land mass and even less of it’s GDP, must be the greatest, also?
No, D.C. is not the greatest. We’re all just lucky to live here and lucky that the rest of America actually makes the products and economic engine that we so gleefully wish to control and regulate.
So, let’s do what all rational adults do when faced with their own humanity: relax and be self-deprecating. Let’s call a joke, a joke. Let’s parody ourselves, because America wants us to take ourselves less seriously. You would certainly know that if you ever returned home to the humble, two church, Midwest town you came from. The friends you graduated high school with look at your Instagram feed like you live at a perpetual D-list Oscars party. Need more evidence? Look at who is in the damn White House right now!
As a wise man once said:
Washington has always been more “Veep” than “House of Cards.”
I’ve made a nice career mocking some of our more arrogant, ridiculous, stuffy traditions. I like to cover Washington’s powerful with a sarcastic eye. Most of them like it. At President Obama’s final State of the Union, the stuffiest of stuffy events, I stood next to the charming and talented Dorey Scheimer, a producer at Cox Media Group, and commented how absurd it was for us reporters to stand behind velvet ropes and watch the most powerful people in the country walk a “Red Carpet” of sorts into the House Chamber for the speech.
Dorey said she agreed and that I should ask them, “Who are you wearing?” just to validate the connection. At that moment, John Kerry walked by. So I did what any rational person would do:
Posted by Benny Arthur Johnson on Sunday, January 1, 2017
Within 24 hours this clip was on “Good Morning America,” “Extra,” the “Jimmy Kimmel” show and many, many more. John Kerry’s inquisitive, human reaction to the question racked up multi-millions of views — far more than any Sunday morning show. I believe people enjoyed seeing that side of the powerful: the vulnerable, human side.
So I did it again this year, asking any politician or judge I could get to look my direction who they were wearing. Their reactions did not disappoint:
I asked every powerful person in our government "Who are you wearing?" tonight. You needed this. You're welcome.
Senator Cory Booker
Senator Steve Daines
Senator Ben Sasse
Senator Al Franken
Senator Ted Cruz
Cruz: “I don’t understand that one.”
Senator John Thune
Supreme Court Justice John Roberts
Senator Bernie Sanders: “Benny, kindly GTFO.”
It’s important to note: In no way am I trying to be disrespectful. I’m trying to humanize. I do plenty of serious journalism and get meaningful, newsworthy scoops. But it’s also important to see the bigger picture: to bring us down a peg and show that, while the titles and marble-columned building make us look important and powerful, we’re just regular humans trying to make this big mess work.
Any person who has worked inside the office of a “powerful” person knows that they are deeply human.
So sexist. Only asked the men. Just really tired of being objectified all the time. https://t.co/hHKEOF31NW
— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) March 1, 2017
The rest of America should know that, too.