I’ve gotten some blowback from people I respect about my comment that the Statehouse is just a pile of bricks. I understand their point of view, but I don’t share it. Here’s a bit of exposition that I’m sure won’t change anyone’s mind.
There’s a saying in National Football League circles: “Protect the Shield.” The NFL logo is a blue shield with white stars and a white football, and “NFL” in big red letters. The saying is invoked when there’s some threat to the league’s reputation (don’t laugh), but I’ve always thought it was completely backwards. Because a shield, by definition, is the thing that protects, not the thing that needs protection. It’s as if you had a bulletproof vest and did everything you could to keep it in mint condition.
I see this all over the place, the conflation of symbol with substance. Many a Trumpy Republican carries a pocket Constitution, but it’s more a fetish than a guidebook. They don’t mind trashing our principles when convenient, but they carry their pocket Constitutions like, well, NFL shields. Same with their obligatory flag lapel pin.
Or the flag itself. The flag is a symbol of our nation, not its essence. You can burn all the flags you want, and it won’t damage our democracy one bit. In fact, burning would be less destructive to the flag than whatever this is:
That’s not America. As George Washington taught us, no one person is irreplaceable or untouchable. He would have had conniptions if he’d seen the “Father of Our Country” equivalent of that dreck.
Anyway. Point is, the flag stands for our country, our independence, our values. By itself, it should not be confused for any of those things.
So, the Statehouse. It’s a beautiful building full of history. A lot of notable things have happened there, and some terrible things. Many people feel a deep sense of connection to it. Which is fine, but the Statehouse isn’t the essence of our brave little state. After all, the original building and its successor were both replaced and it didn’t change our system of government. If, God forbid, this Statehouse were to fall, we’d go ahead and build another one. The Legislature, in the meantime, would maybe meet in an abandoned department store a la Burlington High School.
I do not endorse a bombing or any other serious damage. But a little graffiti, a few broken windows, the Statehouse will live on. And yes, if they catch the perp, prosecute them. That’s the deal: If you’re willing to break the law to express protest, you have to be prepared to take the consequences.
I don’t mind if you are terribly fond of the Statehouse. But I can’t agree with treating it as if it’s the sacrosanct manifestation of our essence.