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« Just How Old a Dog Are You? | Main | Junior High Journalism 101 »

No Salute, Mr. Paton

(A letter to the Editor, March 11, 1997, after it was revealed that a stay at the White House was used as a fundraiser.)

It’s over.

The one thing we had left in America was our sense of history. We stood in awe at White House tours. We drank in the furnishings, the walls, the carpets where renowned statesmen (remember that word?) paced back and forth, wrestling with grave decisions. We marveled at the dignified simplicity of the Washington monument, choked back tears at Gettysburg, and reverenced Jefferson’s memorial.

No more. In the eloquent words of Richard Paton, the Blade’s editorial director, “Let’s hear no more maudlin sentimentalism about how the White House is the nation’s house, and that charging people to sleep there is an affront. We pay to sleep at every other hotel, and pay for coffee at every other restaurant.”

So when’s the blinking neon sign going up? Are the credit card decals stuck to the windows yet? $50,000 limits are possible. How about the McDonald’s and Coke ads strapped to the wrought iron fence? Come to think about it, why not just level the old ramshackle place and put up something more accommodating, more energy efficient, and modern? After all, it’s just a pile of worthless bricks and crumbling mortar.

And why not bulldoze Arlington National Cemetery? Developers would drool over a golf course lined with expensive condos, complete with an amusement park, a covered mall and a recreation complex. That will be worth a lot more than a bunch of bones and a gauche display of nationalism at the ceremonial changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier.

You say that’s being ridiculous? Oh, take your maudlin sentimentalism somewhere else. We now know that there is absolutely nothing sacred anymore. Sacred and faith no longer go in the same sentence. Sacred and the unborn child don’t either. Now sacred and history have passed into obsolescence as well. Thank God we never did put sacred and editorial writers in the same sentence. Maybe we should salute Mr. Paton for enlightening us.

… Nah.

The likes of Richard Paton ought never to write in defense of historical values or preservationist views. They ought never to express outrage at graverobbers, church arsons, or the proposed demolitions of all the Valentine Theaters in the world. We have no past worth preserving or respecting.

I’m worried that we don’t have much of a future either.

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