Our freedoms — and the exercise of them — are being locked up and taken away in order to preserve them, a ridiculous concept akin to keeping a boat drydocked so that it doesn’t get wet.
Courtland Milloy today takes on the often silly “security” closures and roadblocks now cluttering our city:
At a checkpoint behind the U.S. Supreme Court building, another officer smiled wryly and rolled his eyes when I asked what he was doing.
“Just looking,” he said nonchalantly.
Another officer said he was “on the lookout for large amounts of explosives. That’s as honest as I can be.”
Asked how such a cache could be detected by a peek inside a car, another officer raised his hands and shrugged. He didn’t have a clue.
What the checkpoints fail to accomplish in security, however, they make up for in traffic jams. Heaven help the city if there does come a time for an emergency evacuation.
Judging from the lack of protest, however, most people appear to have fallen for the false sense of security that the checkpoints provide. Watching drivers follow the orange signs directing them toward the checkpoints, “Constitution Avenue: Detour,” I wondered whether suspending the Constitution would be as easy.
People seemed to do whatever they were told.
Driving near such symbols of American democracy as the Capitol, the Library of Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court, I felt that the nation was being transformed before my eyes. I recalled snowy days in years past when my son and I would slide down the unshoveled steps of the Supreme Court. Try that now, and we’d both be in trouble.
Gone was access to the steps on the west side of the Capitol, where we used to ride bicycles and oblige tourists who wanted their photos taken with the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial in the background.
There was a time when that magnificent vista from the west side of the Capitol represented the nation’s endless possibilities and the hopes and dreams of the American people. Now it’s gone, cut off from view, just another blind spot in an ever shrinking concept of democracy.
While America sends soldiers off to fight and die for the freedom of others, here at home we are becoming Fortress America, where freedoms are being relinquished without thought or question.
The nation’s greatest symbols of freedom and democracy are being protected — or so it seems — but in a way that has changed the meaning of the symbols.
… At one checkpoint near an entrance to the Capitol, I asked another officer how he could tell if someone was driving with a bomb. “If it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not right,” he told me.
The same could be said about what was happening to the nation’s capital.