34 minutes ago
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
I'm not the only one who is pissed off about this
Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.- Benjamin Franklin
My recent visit to Philadelphia is still sticking in my craw. One of my joys in visiting the city is to take in an afternoon visiting the birthplace of American freedom. But to do it now you are treated like a criminal. To see the Liberty Bell, the Old City Hall and the building the Declaration of Independence was debated you are required to get tickets, pass through metal detectors and deal with fencing all around the place. This is bullshit. A friend of mine just returned from Washington and told me she didn't have to go through any of that to see the Lincoln Memorial or the Washington Monument but had to go pass through a metal detector to get into the Air and Space Museum. You tell me what is a bigger target? As I was leaving the visitors center I kept saying The terrorist have won. We are less free than 5 years ago. Not because of the terrorist but the because of the government's reaction to them. A Smoke-Filled Room pointed out this editorial in the Inky today.
Fencing Independence Hall
Editorial An affront to our history
Gov. Rendell had it exactly right when he said the plan to erect a 7-foot-high security fence through Independence Square "makes no bloody sense at all."
After that, what's left to say?
Plenty, because Independence National Historical Park officials still haven't dropped their bad, knee-jerk proposal to give the spot where the Declaration of Independence had its first public reading the feel of a minimum-security prison yard.
The National Park Service has done one good thing: pushing back until Sept. 1 the deadline for public comment on the park's controversial security plan.
That leaves plenty of time to send your own pungently expressed thoughts about this bad idea to Park Service officials via e-mail. For a description of the security plan and an e-mail address to send comments, go online to http://go.philly.com/hall.
By all accounts, Independence Park officials are getting the earful they richly deserve. Their plan for continued airport-style screening and minimum-security prison fencing has aroused opposition from business leaders, preservationists, civic groups, landscape architects, city planners, historians, archeologists and ordinary citizens who mean it when they sing "home of the brave" before a ballgame.
Ever since 9/11, the trouble with Independence Hall security has been its heavy-handed intrusiveness. From its inception, the screening and corralling of visitors has stood as a glaring contradiction to the courageous stand for liberty that took place in 1776 at the site.
In its comment on the plan, the city's Design Advocacy Group - design professionals who rally around good ideas for the urban landscape - nicely captured the incongruity. As the group's Alan Greenberger wrote, "The sad irony of having to cage the place where American freedom was invented is more than we should all be willing to tolerate."
And the suspicion remains that the plan is mostly about show and cost; less heavy-handed, but more expensive steps could provide equal security (understanding that no site like this in the middle of bustling, major city will ever be totally secure from threat).
The more you hear about the plan the worse it gets. The Park Service plans to convert much of the Supreme Court building - commonly known as Old City Hall - into a room where visitors are marched through metal detectors. That's a disgrace. "Serious desecration" is the appropriate description given this plan by IMBARC, the Independence Mall Business and Residents Coalition.
This is the moment - five years after 9/11, with no credible threats to the historic brick structures or the Liberty Bell - to reassess notions about security around Independence Park.
If the Park Service insists on screening visitors to the buildings, it should do so without the stockade-like cordon. As much as possible, visitors once again should be able to walk up to the old brick buildings, stroll through the archway of Independence Hall and ponder the beauty of Independence Square.
It's long past time for the security measures at Independence Hall to be trimmed back - tailored both to the actual threat, and in keeping with the values enshrined in this city.
Tell the Park Service and Bush administration that the home of the brave doesn't need to erect such fences around its birthplace.