Sometimes certain things confuse and anger me. Here is a first hand story, all true, I WAS THERE. On August 13, 2011, a Saturday I was in Wash DC. An old friend took time to escort me and my daughter around and showed us many of the historical sites in the Washington Mall area and some other special places.
One place we visited was the National Archives. I'd never been to Wash. DC before and this was one place I really wanted to see. After being frisked and tested and de-pocketed we were allowed to enter, passing through the gift shop, of course. We found our way to the Hall of Documents and stood shivering as we had been drenched in a sudden rainstorm on the way to the Archives. It was a crowded day, probably a typical summer saturday, and the line to actually get into the rotunda and SEE the documents wound back and forth.
The guards, all black, all armed, and all looking bored, went through the litany of rules for every 25 or so persons finally admitted past the velvet rope. (Author's note: I considered leaving out the fact that the guards were all Black, but really thought that to leave that fact out could be taken as racist. )
"The Rotunda is darkened to protect the Documents. Use of any lights, flashlights, or any other kind of light is strictly prohibited. These are the original Documents and the light will damage them. They must be protected for future generations. No photographs of any kind will be permitted . No flash guns or strobes on any camera or other device will be permitted. The room is darkened and must remain that way. Any deviation from this rule and you and your party will be escorted out of the Rotunda" etc, etc.........
So, in we went. I was in awe. Here i was, at heart just a poor kid from a small town in Wisconsin.....sixty years old with gray hair and as much American History memorized as I could pack in for five decades or so. I stood in front of THE Constitution. It was dark. I had trouble even reading any of it. It is script, and faded, and behind heavy glass.....and it was dark. Dark, of course to protect THE Constitution. As we were told, even normal room light would damage the parchment and the ink.
After a reasonable time, we all took a last look at the Documents...paused to look around at the regal surroundings of the Rotunda, and left, still in awe.
Now, fast forward to Monday the 15th. President Obama felt the need to hold an event to make some public statement. Where did he choose to do this? In the Rotunda of Document Hall of course. So, for that day, the visiting public was kept away from their Constitution and all the other Documents. The camera crews moved in bringing with them all the light bars, light towers, cameras and more lights. There was a test period, just to get the lights right. Before the President arrived the lights had to be retested and warmed up. If you have been on a live television set you know how bright and clean the lighting must be in order to look "normal" on your set at home. When the President arrived the lights were still on, blazing away on the star of the show.....and oh, yes......the Documents.
The next day, I'm sure the guards lined visitors up and began their litany again, "The Rotunda is darkened to protect the Documents....."
In so many ways during these last four years our Consititution has been attacked, ignored and circumvented. The ideas, the heart and soul of our Constitution have been damaged. And now, its physical existence has been endangered as well.