Monuments to the mistreatment of D.C.

July 13, 2012

Every move to make the District part of America runs into massive resistance.

The insults never stop. You remember when the commemorative quarters were issued and each state was to be honored, but not the District. Or when every state flag was flown in front of Union Station — but not the D.C. flag.

These “oversights” were remedied eventually.

Today, it is the issue of representation inside the U.S. Capitol.

Not actual representation, with real human beings serving in the House of Representatives and the Senate. No, we residents of the District are denied even a statue in our own Capitol building.

Two magnificent statues have been built. They stand mostly ignored in the lobby at One Judiciary Square (441 Fourth St. NW). One is of famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass, and the other of architect Pierre L’Enfant. (I have trouble with the L’Enfant selection, but that is fodder for another day.)

Every state is given a place to celebrate two of its own in Statuary Hall, but once again the District has been excluded.

D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) secured the funding for the statues. Now they stand ready to be moved to their rightful place in the majestic National Statuary Hall.

Douglass is a particularly fine choice: a resident of Anacostia, D.C. recorder of deeds and, in a bow to bipartisanship, a Republican.

In 2010, the House approved the bill that would allow for one statue in the hall. Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Administration Committee, insisted that the District get only one statue. Lundgren, a graduate of Georgetown University Law School, argued that one was sufficient.

You see, two statues would make us look too much like a state. God forbid!

Anyway, as usual, D.C. took what it could get, but to no avail — the Senate never acted on the bill.

Now, through the efforts of Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the Douglass statue could soon claim its rightful place in Statuary Hall. The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved the measure, but not the full Senate, and this time it’s the House that has not yet acted.

Isn’t all of this a metaphor for our condition?

All we are asking for is that one (not even two) of our own have a place in our Capitol building.

To our detractors, don’t worry. This lump of bronze can’t speak or cast a vote.

It is a modest wish to be included in America’s story. By not having a D.C. statue, the myth of our nonexistence can be perpetuated. Further false conclusions can be drawn — 600,000 residents don’t live here, and no one of significance or accomplishment has ever lived here or done anything.

We are spectators of democracy — never permitted to be participants.

It would also be fitting if President Obama — who received 92 percent of our votes in 2008 — would raise his voice in support of this measure. He is a stranger in our midst and starkly silent when the issue is the District.

These symbolic moments cannot be allowed to pass.

Years ago, when the Rev. Jesse Jackson was our Statehood Senator, I asked him, when would this all change? “When it rises to the level of personal insult.”

What more does it take? How direct and personal?

The District will never be respected or taken seriously until it forcefully expresses its fundamental right to be included.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray should immediately instruct the director of the D.C. Department of Public Works to transport the statues to the Capitol building. Let them sit outside and alone. Maybe then the country and the world would see what our nation’s leaders truly think of us.

The writer is the political analyst for Fox 5 News.

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