Well, yes, if the Capitol is seized by the homeless on Jan. 25 it would attract comment, but what if it got burnt down or blown up in the general confusion, or somebody got hurt?
If you ask me, there's too much high idealism floating about this capital, and it can't be prevented altogether, Americans being what they are, but you just watch. It will be the government that outhollers everybody else about the sacredness of the law and regulation G-47, which specifically states you can't set up portable johns in the Department of Commerce, etc., and what will become of us as a nation if we let the bums sleep in the Capitol Rotunda?
What America needs now, of course, is fewer idealists, especially fewer idealists in government, and a few more public servants of practical bent who perhaps cannot tell morals from Morello cherries but who do know how to get things done and who know how to get unnecessary arguments settled without an ambulance.
Otherwise, we're going to wear ourselves out reinforcing every landmark in town with sandbags. We're going to curdle our brains with such questions as whether (taken as a whole, all things considered) looting and rioting and slaughter are wholesome indications of national vigor. It will simply be easier, and far less tedious, to provide warm shelters.
The proposal recently announced by the Community for Creative Non-Violence is for thousands of homeless from all over to descend on the Capitol building to sleep there starting Jan. 25. This is not, as you might think, a plan to achieve round-the-clock somnolence, but to remind us there are hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of Americans whose plight deserves attention and action.
Of course the Capitol may not be the right place for the sleep-in. It was chosen for its symbolic value, the very fact that makes a physical confrontation all the more likely. Peaceful protests can heat up and bubble over. You never know who's coming for one thing, and for another thing the guardians of the Capitol probably grew up thinking it is a sacred temple.
What is to prevent some homeless person of normal intelligence from wearying of the Rotunda murals in about five minutes and wandering along to Sen. Faithful's office, where (upon my soul) there is some rare bourbon, indeed, and the next thing you know he's pitched the senator's polished brass buffalo (presented him in 1938 for his part in the Hoof and Mouth Act) out the window, and the fat is in the fire.
Since the power is all with the government and since not even the meanest Republican really wants people cold at night, surely the government could forget whatever regulation it is that forbids sleeping in the Capitol unless you're a senator. Let government bend a little.
President Reagan should pick up the phone to Mayor Barry:
"Mayor Barry, your president here, the only one you've got. Listen, about these homeless. We can't have that, not in this capital. I read that some bum is trying to steal Sen. Faithful's brass buffalo or something weird like that. I expect you to do something.
"I know it's against the law for these people to sleep in your government buildings, but then it was against the law for people to sit-in in Mississippi a while back and that wasn't any insuperable obstacle, was it?
"I want to be helpful. What about that convention center you just opened? Wouldn't that be a good place to put them? Unless you've already stuffed it full of those Human Watchacallit people from city hall, it ought to be empty and I think the convention trade is going to be kind of slow until you get armored buses or something running from the Carlton. So why not use it for the homeless? Or maybe you have better plans. Not interfering, just trying to be helpful. I know I can count on you for this great humanitarian work. You've always been a leader in that. And now you need to help these homeless, don't you? And, ah, I mean it."
So shines a good deed in a naughty world, and the president is then entitled to say in his own State of the Union Address on Jan. 25 that "the homeless are a reproach to our dislocated economy as we press on to full recovery, but they must not become a reproach to the American conscience as well. My good friend Mayor Barry informs me he is mobilizing the resources of the capital to meet this urgent need. As president, it would be wrong for me to interfere with his local plans, but I applaud his keenness, his eagerness to ensure no American in Washington City freezes in some doorway.
"Unfortunately, some have died from cold-related causes in his city in recent days before he was able to marshal his full resources, but these tragedies are a thing of the past.
"I have myself been out of a job. An actor's lot is not an easy one in between pictures. And I want to add that in the long tradition of the White House I am having a large number of bums, as they are wrongly called, over for dinner. Homeless ones. Nancy is busy with holiday cheer, making monkey bread and eggnog, for she believes with me that we must each do what we can, however little.
"Also, I am asking the Congress to allow 200 of the homeless to sleep every night in the Rotunda of the Capitol, as a symbol that these Americans are close to our hearts. I have asked Sen. Helms to be in charge of this. God bless all of you as together we stay the course."