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The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

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Washington: a symbol of security

WASHINGTON (Washington Post) – As assistant secretary of the Navy during World War I, Franklin Roosevelt consented to the construction of massively ugly military office buildings on Washington’s Mall.

Decades later, as president, Roosevelt reflected on his role in the erection of the “temporary” buildings, which were still in place after all that time. (They’ve since been removed.)

“It was a crime,” the president said, “for which I should be kept out of Heaven, for having desecrated the loveliest city in the world – the capital of the United States.”

Today, security emplacements still encroach upon our most hallowed monuments. They surround our most important political institutions. They do terrible damage not only to the beauty of the city, but to its meanings. This is the capital of an open democracy, fortified compound.

Washington has become a place where the average citizen is forced to approach the residence of the president “of, by and for the people” through a thicket of fences, tightly spaced planters, guardhouses and police vehicles with idling engines.

Washington is now a place where it’s difficult to experience democracy firsthand. So maybe it doesn’t matter too much that citizens no longer can ascend the steps of the Capitol’s West Front to experience one of the most instructive and inspiring views of the city.

The most insidious part of the confusion and the ugliness is that it’s all beginning to seem so normal. The great planned city is justly prized for its public spaces and its symbolism – Washington’s monumental spaces tell a compelling, multilevel national narrative. Now, however, we’re getting used to making sense out of the Washington Monument towering above, and yet cowering behind, the ring of concrete barriers – a distorted story.

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