Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Every day of the year I ply my piddling trade in the National Capital Region, and every day I see fellow American citizens gazing in wonder at our magnificent National monuments and memorials. And it occurs to me that back in October of 1973 when I first laid eyes on Washington, D.C. how awestruck I was by the magnificence of the Capital of the free world.
But time and familiarity soon reduced these sights to landmarks. The time came when I shook my head at the hordes of tourists marvelling at the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial. After all, I had already climbed the stone stairs of the Washington Monument to the top and then descended them. I had walked right into the Capitol building without saying "boo" to a soul, and had ridden the underground subways between the main Capitol building and the House and Senate office buildings, not on any official business but just as an American citizen out on a lark.
But the day came when it was announced that tourists would no longer be allowed to climb the Washington Monument; and it was later announced that descents would have to be by elevator, also. Some time around 1985 or so, visitors entering the buildings of the Capitol complex would have to pass through metal detectors. 
In the mid 1990s, Pennsylvania Avenue was closed in the 1600 block, creating massive traffic jams. After the terrorist attacks of 2001, security at the Capitol complex was tightened mire and more. No longer can a citizen enter "the people's house" unless he is part of a tour group being led around by the nose by a tour guide - and woe betide the stray who dawdles and gets separated from the authorized tour group. What once was an open city symbolic of an open society has for the last few years begun to resemble more and more the Kremlin of the Soviet Union.
The excuse offered to this is that recent events have evidenced a "new more severe threat level".
Back in the 90s, some idiot shot his way into the Capitol building, killing a Capitol police officer. That wasn't a good thing, but it isn't a new phenomenon.  Back in the 50s, a bunch of Puerto Rican nuts walked in and shot up the Senate floor from the gallery. Did this lead to paranoid pain in the ass security enhancements? NO.
In modern times, D.C. has seen a Chilean dissident killed by a car bomb in 1976 and an assassination attempt on a president in 1981. None of this resulted in the level of paranoid prison lockdown style security we are faced with today.  And as the level of security has increased, so seemingly has the arrogance of the protected Senators and Representatives.
So here's a little modest proposition: You servants - yes, Harry and yes Nancy and yes Mr. Schumer and the rest of you - you take the same chances as we do. Re-open the Capitol building to full, free public access. Re-open Pennsylvania Avenue. Allow the free people you represent to bring their weapons in, the better to defend against the occasional nutbar.
After all, if you are truly doing things to benefit the average American, you need not fear his weapon nor his wrath.  So why are you bunkering yourselves? What are you afraid of? Here's a bit of news: none of you are national treasures. It's an utter waste of money to guard you from unexpected access from the People you serve; as if you were the Hope Diamond. If you're serious about reducing the deficit and the debt, then open up the streets and the buildings and start acting like the servants you are and stop trying to pretend that you are essential and irreplaceable. You're not. To paraphrase Charles DeGaulle, the graveyards are filled with irreplaceable people. 
Do your damn job and you'll probably be okay.

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