January 21, 2005


Browse in Freedom

Presidential inaugurations are the kind of scripted rituals that only a numbed-out media would take seriously. I’ve always wondered why the Washington Post and New York Times don’t assign their drama critics rather than their political reporters to cover them. They are pure theater, contrived entirely for the effect they will make. Why pretend that they are “news”?

The Bush affair yesterday did however have an unwitting candor. Not only was it scripted; it also was fenced. The peoples’ event in the peoples’ capital was accessible only to those who bought tickets — who were able to buy tickets. That meant, basically, Bush campaign supporters. Others were relegated to small crevices between the grandstands. This wasn’t just about security. It was about privitized democracy; and it was an emblem of an administration that wants to make everything private: the oceans, airwaves and forests; the research in our universities, the water that starts as rain and ends up in our taps .

The historical line from the fences around the sheep pastures in 18th century England, and the fences and grandstands along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington this week, is direct. Good fences mat or may not make good neighbors. But to propose that high fences make real freedom, is to suggest that the word “freedom” is code for something else.