I don’t know you, Mark E.P. Roberts, but I owe you a debt of gratitude for bringing clear-eyed, intelligent, eloquent analysis to the too-often finger-pointing, blame-tossing public shouting match that passes for debate over the political status of your native, and my adoptive, hometown (“My D.C.,” 9/19). Such no-nonsense, pinpoint accuracy and heartfelt perspective are all too rare. They’re nonexistent among politicians, virtually absent from the media (including Washington City Paper until now).
As you point out, this is not about Marion Barry’s cronyism or mismanagement, not about the council’s or the school board’s fiddling while D.C. burned. It’s not even about the out-of-control board, which is merely a tool made by Congress and then discarded for all practical purposes. No, this is about the Congress itself, about micromanagement from the outside by people with no vested interest in our District, about disdain for democracy.
Is there no end to the Southern despotism that D.C. must put up with? As the song used to say, “Look what they’ve done to my song, Ma.”
Appease one North Carolinian, another is waiting in the wings to raise the stakes. First, from the Senate, we have Lauch Faircloth, a North Carolina hog farmer, demanding that D.C. dance to his tune, except his rhythm is so sparse there’s almost nothing to dance to. We (in the person of our nonvoting Eleanor Holmes Norton) say, “Yassuh, Massah.” Not to be bested, his North Carolina tree-farmer colleague, Rep. Charles Taylor, sadistically tries to chop the whole band into little bits. No wonder the National Conservation League rates his voting record
Kind of reminds you of Neville Chamberlain striking a deal with Hitler in 1938. Faircloth and Taylor, Dukes of Hazzard wannabes, turn out to be roadrunner despots bent on driving every last vestige of democracy out of D.C. And to be sure, vestiges are about all we had of democracy to begin with. What’s ahead for us: Jesse Helms, North Carolina’s other Neanderthal, who has already amply demonstrated his disdain for democracy and anything else remotely civil?
Is there any difference between these Republicans and their racist Southern Democrat precursors? I have in mind Rep. John McMillan of South Carolina. In 1971, “Johnny Mack” was chair of the House District Committee. Roberts would have been but 16 at the time, so he may not remember that dictator of our pre-home rule past. Allow me to refresh his memory with a single typical quotation from a report by McMillan’s committee:
“It is not the Congress, or the federal establishment, which is the interloper here, but rather the thousands of persons who have swarmed here, most of whom add little or nothing to the day-by-day operations of the federal government, who are the intruders and who are not vital to the federal government’s operations. Washington is a federal city, occupying its own land, and owes nothing to the District residents thereon.”
Is that at all different from Sen. Faircloth’s admonition that if we don’t like what he’s doing to our town we can just move away? Does anyone doubt those are the “good old days” that Faircloth, Taylor, and their Grand Old Party are hellbent on bringing back? Haven’t we had enough of this kind of despotism? Isn’t it time they turned their attention to their hogs and trees and let us have our city back? Would they countenance a federal takeover of their hometowns when their locally elected officials are found lacking? (We use “when” advisedly, because every place has its moment of moral bankruptcy, even that Republican bastion, Orange County, Calif., and we note that the GOP hasn’t called for a federal takeover there.) Shouldn’t we
be out there voicing our outrage as often and as loudly as possible, without apology?
Yes, Mr. Roberts, we who call this our home, who love it and have no intention of abandoning it regardless of its flaws, we all grieve for democracy. I will look for you on the barricades.
via the Internet