We wonder what the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., himself a victim of an assassin, would say about all the security bureaucracy that has entangled our once-open society.
He traveled knowing of death threats, plots and hatred.
But we wonder whether he would entomb himself in the smothering security blanket that so many elected and appointed officials embrace these days.
It seems like some believe they’re not important unless they travel with in-your-face security teams.
We bring up the securicrats (our word for this worsening bureaucracy) because there they were last week at Reagan National, while we were waiting for our US Airways flight to Orlando.
It was midweek, a Wednesday at 7:15 a.m.
Suddenly among the sleepy crowd there was a stir.
Your Notebook looked up just in time to see a stern-faced, plainclothes security guard wave off a hapless citizen who appeared to be headed for the coffee vendor.
And what was the reason for this abrupt treatment of a citizen? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was walking, surrounded by at least four security guards, and we guess they didn’t want her to have to slow down.
Now this was inside the airport’s secure zone, where presumably we’re all safe (or safer).
Since when does the securicrat bureaucracy get to wave away citizens imperially just so an official can walk uninterrupted? That’s not security. It’s arrogance. And it’s ugly.
Had the person or anyone else been trying to speak to Pelosi -- the nerve! -- one of the guards could have politely intercepted the contact. But this citizen was just trying to get to a concourse vendor.
The speaker of the house might remember that it’s "the people’s house" up there on Capitol Hill. She might instruct her crew to be a little less imperial with the public walking in our free society. Or she could take the back hallway and baggage ramp to avoid the common citizens.
Just for the record, the speaker was walking and smiling and didn’t seem to notice the citizen interaction. Maybe she should have.
• Remembering King.
Our thoughts about what King might do in this securicrat world were prompted this week when we visited the construction site along the Tidal Basin where the civil rights leader’s memorial is being prepared.
When it opens in fall 2011, the memorial is expected to draw visitors from around the world.
The site is now abuzz with activity, with workers pouring concrete foundations and clearing the four-acre plot.
But the bad world economy right now is putting a crimp in the plans to finish the memorial on time.
Everyone knows that the economy of Greece has been faltering. But we were surprised to learn that Greece recently pulled the plug on its plan to help with the King memorial construction by using its vast shipping industry.
The Greek government said it could not afford the $250,000 cost of shipping 1,600 metric tons of stone sculpture for the memorial from China to a port in Baltimore.
"We were given a gracious apology from the Greeks," said Ed Jackson, the executive architect of the $120 million project, which is being financed mostly through private funds. He told News4, "They indicated to us that they could not fulfill the promise they had offered to us."
The tons of stonework include the pieces "Mountain of Despair" and "Stone of Hope." The latter includes a three-story likeness of King, which, when in place, will have him gazing out over the Tidal Basin.
We are glad to see in the architectural drawings that this naturalistic memorial will not be encircled with bollards and other barriers in the name of "security."
"We have some," Jackson said, but he agreed that a place of freedom and hope should not be shrouded in pointless security.
But let’s get back to the shipping problem.
Jackson said the King memorial foundation is busy trying to line up ships to get the stonework to the Baltimore port and, in stages, to the Tidal Basin site. If all goes well, the stonework will be on American soil by the end of July. Parts of it then will be hauled from Baltimore as needed when on-site construction begins no later than September.
The good news is that the stonework will arrive 80 percent complete, Jackson said. The remaining 20 percent of construction requires more on-site work.
You can get a glimpse of the King site by peeking through the construction fencing near the FDR Memorial. And you can help with endgame fundraising for the memorial by visiting buildthedream.org and donating.
• Dems' delight.
Maybe Police Chief Cathy Lanier should run for mayor.
On Monday night, the D.C. Democratic State Committee honored the chief, and the applause at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel was louder for her than for anyone else. (Mayor Adrian Fenty had slipped into the room without fanfare, and opponent Vincent Gray had not arrived near 9 p.m. when we called it a night.)
One negative for the chief? She gave a heartfelt "thank you" to District citizens for being willing to help police solve crimes -- but in her brief remarks, she never mentioned Fenty, the mayor who appointed her. At a political event like that, it was a major omission.
• We’re No. 3!
Are you thinking about moving from the District? Maybe you shouldn’t.
Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine has named the nation’s capital the third best place to be in the next decade (kiplinger.com/links/bestcities).
We ranked behind Austin, Texas, and Seattle. See the website for the full list.
The Kiplinger editors, many of whom live here, point to the region’s booming businesses and federal government influence. They note that the city itself is "experiencing monumental growth. D.C. proper gained more new residents between July 2008 and July 2009 than in any other one-year period since World War II."
And we were glad to see the magazine note that only 11 percent of the D.C. population works directly for the federal government.
One of the big hurdles in getting basic voting rights for District citizens is the pervasive misunderstanding that we are just a "federal enclave" and therefore have no claim to citizenship rights.
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