Saturday, June 04, 2011

Dance 'til you drop

Updated I'm sure you're heard about this; the video has gone viral, but there is a point I haven't seen raised and I just wanted to drop it in.

In April 2008, something less than 20 young people staged a flash mob at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC. You know what flash mobs are: A group of separate individuals at some pre-arranged time and place suddenly all start doing the same thing for some agreed period of time and then just go on about their business. Usually they last just a couple of minutes.

In this case, it involved people dancing to music played through their headphones.

Park police demanded that they stop and leave. They arrested 18; one woman fought the charges in court. She lost; recently the US Court of Appeals for DC upheld the conviction and the law.

Last Saturday a small group went to dance at the Memorial in protest of the upheld ban. Police told at least one person - and maybe only that one person - that anyone who danced would be arrested without warning.

And they did just that. Police arrested anyone who even looked like they were dancing. In fact, the first arrest on the video is of a couple who - quite literally - were holding each other and just swaying a little while standing in one place. Protesters were punched, screamed at, in one case body-slammed - and these dangerous criminals, when arrested, were handcuffed behind their backs. Afterwards, the cops actually closed the site for a time.

Here's the thing I wanted to add, the thing that got me most about this whole mess: The decision upholding the original arrest and conviction justified the law on the necessity to maintain "an atmosphere of reverence" at the site and referring to a requirement for a "tranquil and contemplative mood" there.

Okay, first forget the fact that on a typical day during much of the year, the site is often filled with screaming schoolchildren and just consider the site and who it's about.

"An atmosphere of reverence?" What is this, a church? Some kind of shrine? A place where people go to mumble prayers and light candles? This for a thoroughgoing deist, a man who wrote "And the day will come, when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as His Father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva, in the brain of Jupiter?" How weird is that?

Even more: A "tranquil and contemplative mood?" Are they joking? Have we forgotten who this is a memorial to? (Of course we have - we're supposed to.) Thomas Jefferson, let's drag back to mind, was a traitor to what was then the lawful government of the land, that of Great Britain. Thomas Jefferson was a violent revolutionary who said "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism" and "The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all."

Dancing supposed to be affront to memory of that sort of man? Really?

Hopefully Unnecessary Footnote: Yes, I do know about the less savory parts of what makes up Thomas Jefferson. Doesn't change the point here a single whit.

Updated because I'm often a step behind: On Saturday, a larger group of about 200 came to the Memorial to protest the law. Faced with
dozens of people [who] shimmied, shook and even funky-walked,
Park Police stood by for about 10 minutes before slowly moving people out and shutting down the site for a time. There were no arrests.

Footnote to the Update: Writing in the Washington Post on June 2, Petula Dvorak recalls the eerily similar story of how people were arrested for flying kites at the Washington Monument in 1970.

1 comment:

DaisyDeadhead said...

Great post! I can't help but think Jefferson woulda loooooved flash mobs.

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