Daily Archives: November 13, 2010

V. The City as Stage and Shrine | Washington DC, the Place and Space Series

Visitors seldom come to Washington DC specifically for the city the way they might visit New York or Chicago.  They typically visit for what the locals often refer to as “the marble”.  On the one hand, DC’s great federal buildings represent the shrines of our democratic government, the legacy of the good things our forefathers set in motion even though it was imperfect.  It is as Kennedy said in Berlin in his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” (translation: “I am a jelly doughnut”) speech: “Democracy may not be perfect, but we have never had to build a wall to keep our people in!”

In addition to the Capitol and the White House, there are other things that draw people to the city such as the universities like Georgetown University, Howard University and Gallaudet University.  There are religious buildings such as the National Cathedral and the National Shrine of  the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.  There are also the museums such as the National Memorial Museum of the National Holocaust, the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Art–all federally owned and maintained, so free to the public (i.e.: taxpayers).  And, cultural attractions such as the Kennedy Center, Verizon Center (concerts, the NHL’s Capitals, the WNBA’s Magic and the NBA’s the Wizards) and National’s Park (MLB’s Nationals).  But, the biggest draw are the monuments and those federal buildings that have an iconic place in America’s civic religion.

These icons are pilgrimage sites for the American family, but also have become the  stage with which to relate the ideas of one’s cause to the ideas that make America unique and special–freedom and rights–even where deficiencies are found or perceived.  Thus, the meaning of the cause is to be tied to the cause of the forefathers or Lincoln, and, because of the place’s history, the cause of the Civil Rights movement which so early identified the value of these spaces for its mission.  What follows, to conclude this series about Washington DC and its places and spaces, is a photo essay devoted to the usage of the city as shrine and stage.

After the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to desegregate Constitution Hall for international opera star Marian Anderson's performance, Eleanor Roosevelt arranged for her concert to be held at the Lincoln Memorial.

Martin Luther King at the Lincoln Memorial

March for Life along Constitution Avenue from the White House up to the Supreme Court

AIDs Quilt on the National Mall

The Promise Keepers' Rally on the National Mall

Demonstrations for Immigrants's rights at the Capitol

Glenn Beck's Rally to Restore Honor

John Stewart and Stephen Colbert's Rally to Restore Sanity/Fear

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