Posts Tagged ‘9/11’

A while back, as part of its support for the 1 For All initiative WordPress encouraged all bloggers to reflect on the First Amendment to the US Constitution.  I was a little preoccupied with other things (an article, class prep, Ironman training. . .) so I dithered for a bit.  But the recent manufactured folderol over New York’s Ground Zero has made this issue a more pressing one for me.

Preamble

Freedom Plaza lies close to the geographic heart of Washington DC.  It straddles the governmental axis of the nation’s capital, Pennsylvania Avenue, only a couple of blocks from the White House with a clear view up the avenue to the Capitol building.  DC is a city filled with representational spaces, each of them designed with explicit symbolism in mind that is often coupled with historically layered meanings and sometimes with downright unintentional references.  In this regard, Freedom Plaza may be the most representative of DC spaces because of the strange and often contradictory symbolism that surrounds the plaza.

The plaza acquired its current name in 1980.  It features a large inlaid stone map of what every red-blooded American thinks of when they hear the word Freedom: Pierre L’Enfant’s street plan for DC.  Wait. . .what?  Then there is the obligatory inoffensive fountain, and a statue of some Polish guy who helped out in the Revolutionary War.  The site also hosts a time capsule containing several relics from Martin Luther King, Jr. who wrote his “I Have a Dream” speech in a nearby hotel.  Therefore the plaza has some pretty typical elements of traditional US celebrations of freedom: conspicuous wastage of water, praise of those specific foreigners (distinguished from foreigners in general) who have thought that we were the shit, and a shameless attempt to piggyback on an event that didn’t happen there.  In addition. . .nope, sorry, still got nothing to explain the L’Enfant map thing.  (It is just so weirdly self-referential: you can stand at the heart of DC on a map that is located in the heart of a DC laid out according to the map that you are standing on. . .maybe it is some kind of comment about DC navel-gazing?).

(more…)

Advertisements