District's WWI Memorial at Center of a 21st Century Battle
||Washington Post (DC)
||Thursday, March 31, 2011
Joe [Grano, president of the Rhodes Tavern-D.C. Heritage Society] thinks there’s nothing shabby about being a block from the White House. But here’s what’s really going on: Just as Edwin wants the D.C. World War I memorial to symbolize more than the District, Joe wants it symbolize more than World War I.
The monument has become a rallying place for some supporters of D.C. voting rights. As Joe wrote in a letter to the foundation: The “D.C. memorial now represents to District of Columbia citizens not only what we have given to our beloved country, but also what our country has not given to us.”
Edwin’s response? “I think they’re reaching to use that memorial for that purpose in the first place,” he said. Even so, he wants the National Park Service to include wording that the memorial is also a local one. And he’s all for D.C. voting rights advocates lobbying to get something on there about their issue, too.
I predict that if this bill goes through, there is zero chance the renamed memorial will include anything about the District’s lack of representation. One of the main proponents of the bill in the House has been Rep. Ted Poe (R-Tex.). I called for his opinion on D.C. voting rights. A spokeswoman e-mailed back: “Rep. Poe is not going to comment on this issue at this time.” In 2007 he voted against a bill to give the District a vote in Congress.
Where are the District’s elected leaders on this? In 2009, the D.C. Council issued a resolution in favor of the name change. There were no public hearings. Both Jack Evans and Eleanor Holmes Norton are honorary trustees of the foundation.
I guess in the grand scheme of things, re-carving some marble isn’t a big deal. But it grates, just as it grates that a petulant Congress won’t let the District have statues in the U.S. Capitol. As Joe put it: “You deny us any equality with the 50 states, and you just come in and take over our war memorial?”
Edwin is adamant the memorial won’t be “federalized.” He said the new name would be the District of Columbia and National World War I Memorial. To me that “and” makes it sound as if the District is something separate, something not quite national, not quite American.
Of course, when it comes to voting rights, it isn’t. As the District is asked to allow its modest war memorial to be subsumed for the greater good of the nation, is it too much to ask that the District get some greater good, too?
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