WASHINGTON — Mornings are brutal here in our nation’s capital, and have been espe­cially so as election day approached. After I wake and cut off the ringing, I lie on the couch that is my bed — the cost of living in D.C. is grotesque; this poor alum’s wallet misses Hillsdale as much as he does — and wonder why I want to get up to go be an intern at a mag­azine where I will not be able to escape what has passed for pol­itics this year. My masochism gets the better of me and I open Twitter. Perhaps this time I will laugh and not cry. Somehow I will get out the door on time. Caf­feine helps.

Yes­terday, America picked its next com­mander-in-chief. As they say on the internet, #lulz.

My couch is in a living room in an apartment in West Falls Church, Vir­ginia. Beltway Vir­ginia is a sub­urban hellscape, one Dante could have taken inspi­ration from in his account of the third ring of Inferno’s seventh circle. It is a fes­tering, open wound of highways, strip malls, and apartment com­plexes, a work of dia­bolical vio­lence against aes­thetics and humane living. Thank God for Trader Joe’s.

A bus takes me to the metro, and into WMATA’s hands I commit my schedule. The downtown Metro sta­tions resemble nothing so much as bomb shelters, matching the rest of Cold War era Washington’s bru­talism, and in the crush of the morning commute the abstract pos­si­bility of nuclear winter seems almost a relief, a reset of a civ­i­lization that clearly went wrong some­where. After all, in the bird-flip-to-the-elites pop­u­larity of Donald Trump, we’ve dis­covered that blowing it all up is an appealing prospect to many Amer­icans.

When I rise from the earth on long, oft-broken esca­lators, I’m greeted by the best cacophony of city life. Car horns and buskers and people shouting into phones, the side­walks are full and the city is humming. This place is recession proof. But it seems as though the worse the rest of the country is the better for imperial Babylon and its bureau­crats. Never mind the home­lessness every­where, the pan­han­dlers on every bench and every corner. Never mind the globular men in chalk stripe suits stag­gering from brunch meeting to lunch meeting past the hungry, ignoring their neighbor at their feet as easily as they ignore the rest of the country and the aches in their knees and ankles.

This city is evil, but I love it anyway. It is a coldly beau­tiful mixed-use temple, a mon­ument both to the people and to mammon. Stately parks and marble mon­u­ments adorn common life. I almost weep at the Smith­sonian museums’ col­lec­tions, priceless art and knowledge made freely available to the masses through one man’s gen­erosity and others’ careful stew­ardship. The Smith­so­nians are archi­tec­tural mas­ter­pieces con­taining mas­ter­pieces, palaces for all cit­izens pre­serving and sharing the extrav­a­gance of extra­or­dinary wealth and long history. They let us know where we come from and what is worth con­serving and, like a mirror, let us reflect upon our present. In the same way, the National Archives, the Capitol, the White House, the Supreme Court, the Library of Con­gress, are all visible reminders of the aspi­ra­tions of our founders. It’s inspi­ra­tional and hopeful.

But after the slog of the election, and the divides it drew even in the Hillsdale com­munity, it is hard to hope right now. We may limp along in our par­tisan trenches or enter a state of crisis after yes­terday, but civic revival must begin in the hearts and minds of the people, and neither of those gave a strong showing this past year. But when I’m tempted to despair for the country, to find the prospect of total destruction more than a passing flight of nihilistic fancy, this city’s beauty offers itself as a balm for my malaise.

That beauty can come in unex­pected places. Far­ragut Square often plays stage to a ragtag pop trio with a beat up drum set, an electric guitar, and a cheap micro­phone. It is enough. Some­times you need a black man to sing a siz­zling Adele cover by your Metro stop to remind you that art is not going to die because the American exper­iment is having a repli­cation problem.

And of course that beauty is found in expected places too. When I worry about the shrinking middle class, about runaway greed on Wall Street, and about declining eco­nomic mobility, I take some comfort in the fact that in the National Gallery I can see art I could never afford and find culture pre­served and per­pet­uated. Fellow Hillsdale alumnus Gregory Wolfe lit­erally wrote the book on how “Beauty Will Save the World,” and I hope that’s true; but I also hope that Beauty will save my election-ravaged heart and soul.

We’ll see in the morning. Maybe Twitter will actually make me laugh tonight.

Micah Mead­ow­croft ’16 is a former Arts editor and asso­ciate editor for The Col­legian.