At any rate, the disgraceful defilement of Washington, DC in the 45 years since (no, be honest: 46) was brought to mind in a single moment yesterday afternoon. The battle-hardening of the square-mile area surrounding the White House, begun in the hysteria over Libyan terrorist cells during the Reagan Regnum, and reinforced and made permanent in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing of the middle Clinton years, has made the Ellipse a dreary maze of Jersey barriers, ugly temporary fences and chain enclosures that mark off arbitrary Sterile Zones into which the hapless tourist wanders erroneously at his peril. A non-English-speaking visitor stands an excellent chance of being shot dead for wandering into one of these ambiguously marked Zones and not understanding the police's bullhorned cease-and-desist order. A more enslaved symbol of the Land of the Free, and a more pusillanimous emblem of the Home of the Brave, is simply impossible to imagine.
Yesterday I heard a sane, measured, adult voice speaking, encouraging me to stand tall and refuse to be afraid, refuse to be cowed, refuse to be swayed by the rhetoric of fear, a voice that intoned,
It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they did. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it’s up to us to do the very same thing.I walked past that White House just a few minutes after I heard those words, saw the layers of temporary fencing and Jersey barriers and steel-chain bollards and black-clad stormtroopers wielding god-knows-what kind of weaponry around the Presidential Perimeter, and was struck as never before by one laser-sharp insight:
The Fear starts -- and ends -- here.
In my fondest dream, my most fanciful of fantasies, the next President of the United States will, within ten minutes of taking the Oath of Office (you know, that one where he or she swears to preserve, protect and defend that Crazy Ol' Constitution), issue an order that the whole Führerbunker shooting match --the tank traps, the Checkpoint-Charlie-style vehicle mazes, the concrete-barrier wasteland -- be dismantled forthwith and deposited in its rightful place at the bottom of the Potomac. Not because the War on Terra is over or because Osama bin Laden has ruefully turned himself in at the nearest gendarmerie...
...but for the infinitely more honorable reason that, in the face of all this danger: We Are Not Afraid.
How much more diametrically opposed to Franklin Roosevelt's reassurance to a nation under extreme adversity -- "We have nothing to fear but fear itself"-- and how much more dishonorable, can be the message of the current occupants of that Führerbunker: "FearFearFearFearFearFEAR!"
And for a regime so solicitous of the feelings of the troops that it denounces as treasonous any dissenting voice that may call into question the integrity and usefulness of their self-evidently poorly defined and endless mission, the fact that these chickenhawks, draft dodgers, Swift Boat Veterans and TANG deserters occupy a hardened concrete Führerbunker at the very heart of a vital city of bars, restaurants, universities, concert halls, museums and businesses can't help but look to those selfsame troops like that disgusting, cowardly practice of cannon-feeding generals through all of human history, Leading from the Rear.
Let's put it in terms that never fail to evince dewy-thighed Neocon sighs:
Mr. Bush, TEAR DOWN THIS WALL!