Sherwood renews his gripes this week, lamenting the host of Jersey barriers, bollards and other barricades that surround our city’s landmarks — such as State Department headquarters, which now “looks like a compound in Baghdad’s Green Zone, not the focal point for diplomacy in the capital of the free world.”
Where is the American ingenuity to devise better crowd security without treating each person as a potential terrorist or terrorist stooge? We hear all the time that the wheelchair-bound senior citizen or the baby in a basket may be carrying bombs unknowingly. Well, what’s to stop a terrorist from putting on a ubiquitous security uniform and just walking into a place? Who polices the police?
It’s not a typical remembrance of the 9/11 attacks, but it’s one that recognizes their most lasting effects within the District’s borders. Certainly the proliferation of security barriers was underway before 9/11 — notably the closing of the 1500 and 1600 blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue NW after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. But it was only after 9/11 that it became taboo to even question measures that went as far as banning photo-taking of public buildings from public space and as feckless as requiring “100 percent ID check” at public buildings.
Try this the next time you’re walking along Pennsylvania Avenue or other downtown corridor: Count the police officers you see, the police cars, the private security guards, the security cameras, the barriers, the bollards, the signs that forbid entry, the signs that demand identification cards and anything else that says you can’t do this or that.
It could be depressing.
But also, look up. Look up beyond the barricaded doors and bomb-proof glass to see how many flagpoles sprout from private and government buildings. Take a moment to enjoy the sight of Old Glory waving in the wind. (We particularly like the big flag on Freedom Plaza, an aptly named space on Pennsylvania Avenue.)
Look at those flags that stand for freedom — and for a country that honors freedom and tries to export it to the world. That’s the America we want to see. And we want to see it with as few barriers as possible.