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Inanity of Dancing at the Jefferson Memorial

by George on June 24, 2011

The challenge of a democracy is guaranteeing personal freedom without turning the constitutional document that frames these rights into a manual on etiquette.

Now, I expect that most people go to national monuments to lose themselves in a moment of appreciation for our founders and their foresight, or perhaps to appreciate the majestic artistry of the monuments celebrating them – so I’m having a little trouble visualizing these august profundities as a suitable backdrop for a hoe-down.

Yes, it’s wonderful that the First Amendment gives you the right to dance at a national monument – I just don’t know why anyone would.  Strikes me as an inanity.

Dancing at Jefferson Memorial

People being arrested for dancing ... poorly.

Recently a group of yahoos decided to dance silently to protest a recent court ruling against one of their ilk who attempted to sue the officer who arrested her for dancing at the Jefferson Memorial last year.

When viewed in a vacuum, the prospect of dancing at a national monument in the very wee hours of the morning seems a bit trite; like, who cares? – but Washington, D.C., like life itself, is not a vacuum. It’s the nation’s capitol, the seat of our national government – and not exactly one of the safest places to be meandering around after dark.

So, if your behavior inspires the notice and concern of the Capitol Police or Park Rangers, a few things are likely: a) you’re under influence, you’re having a seizure or some other medical event, and/or b) you may be a threat to yourself, the physical safety of others, or the monument you’re visiting.

Of course, since the police are most familiar with choices a and b – and that they represent the most reasonable explanation of most bizarre behavior – they may not always appreciate a third option: an asinine, pointless gesture of immaturity contrived to promote a sense of self-importance.

Certainly, speaking out on a limitation of free speech is a laudable enterprise every citizen should engage in, but this was not that.

This was simply a conflation of youthful exuberance, the egocentricity of adolescence, and inadequate development of a sense of decorum giving license to poor judgment. It was NOT representative of some constitutional crisis worthy of consideration.

The right to free speech isn’t a license to be an asshole. If you want to try the patience of people who protect our national monuments, you might not want to do this after dark when their wariness is heightened by the certain knowledge that iconoclastic behavior is their canary-in-a-coal-mine.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jodi June 30, 2011 at 9:24 am

OMG I LOVE this “The right to free speech isn’t a license to be an asshole. ” I may have a bumper sticker made up!

This was an excellent post George!!!!


Don MacNeil June 25, 2011 at 8:18 am

Mr. J. has broadened his horizons on this one; like how the opening statement follows through with clear explainations of the full body of eveidence. “August profundities… very wee hours… meandering around after dark… pointless gesture of imaturity contrived… conflation of youthful exhuberance… egocentricity of adolescence…giving license to… iconoclastic behaviour is a canary in a coal mine…” are all great wordsmithing attempts at coalescent knitting of the whole article together as an interesting piece of observatory writing; that captures both the humor and event factors described, in a fresh way of experiencing Georges perspectives. Very enjoyable and classic to Georges style. Hope major mags are paying attention, and WSJ why are you not asking G.J. to do a weekly column?


George June 26, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Thanks, Don!


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