Comparing country’s capitols.

It was most interesting. After being in Ottawa earlier this month, we just returned from a week in Washington, D.C. We enjoyed both cities in ideal weather. Ottawa was in bloom and the Washington spring was teetering towards the grinding heat and humidity of the wetland’s summer.

You can be assured that casual breakfasts and fine dining still exist in both cities. Just take lots of money. Suspicions are easily confirmed that neither city represents its country. Neither city looks to its country for guidance. They are insular. They stand separate and apart.

The major difference is that the District of Columbia is America’s Mecca. It is a city of Ka’abas for the devout to circle and to worship. It is where Americans come for their Hajj. Washington is monuments, memorials, tributes, honours and shrines. It is America’s past and its future. It sits low in its architecture, kneeling to the Gods of the Capitol. Recognizing the power of the White House and the enormity of the Pentagon, the city lays before the hill rising to Arlington with its dead. It is the escape of the Beltway and the pleasures of Georgetown. It is one massive traffic jam.

Ottawa, regrettably, gets a bum rap. It is where Canadians come to stone the devil, not to worship. The city lacks the monuments, the tributes, the marble halls of history. The Parliament Buildings are a façade. The Senate is somnambulant. The peanut gallery in the House of Commons offers a tiresome theatre of the absurd. Debate is questionable, even in Question Period.

There is not even a marble memorial in Ottawa to John A. Macdonald, the man who imagined Canada. He is buried in a simple weed-infested family plot in Cataraqui, a town swallowed by Kingston, Ontario. His place of honour is Canada’s ten dollar bill.

Ottawa revels in its natural beauty, its restaurants, its museums, its parks and canal, its tiny lake and the majesty of its river. It is a city of pleasant summers and that thrives on the challenges of winter.

In that, it lords it over Washington, a city that has to shut down for a few inches of snow. Ottawa also lacks Washington’s pretentions. If you want to stay out of traffic jams in Ottawa, just stay out of the way of the civil servants on the Queensway in rush hour.

Ottawa might be all we have for a nation’s capital until Prime Minister Harper decides to move it to Calgary. We should enjoy it while we can.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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