The Bill of Rights and Wrongs

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The Hirshhorn wins one of our DC Civility Awards!

Washington, DC was a great place to spend Labor Day weekend. We learned about our nation’s proud history, saw The Declaration of Independence and The Bill of Rights, and encountered a number of heroes and zeroes in the civics department.

In fact, those elements all converged in one magical moment, with our eye-opening experience at the Lincoln Memorial. There, near the bottom of the august steps leading to the proud statue of the Great Emancipator, we witnessed a group of Confederate flag protesters.

Actually, it was more like a motley crew of rejects from The Jerry Springer Show. One fitness-challenged young woman clutched the rebel colors in one hand and a soda in the other. When she was done with the recyclable bottle of Coke (which was, ironically for her, a Diet!), she tossed it on the ground.

A humble offering to Honest Abe.

She took our Labor Day Weekend booby prize for the biggest violator of the values upon which the United States of America was founded. Ms. Dixie soundly defeated the surly employee at the Metro train station who offered a rude attitude when we politely asked questions about her company’s routes. She also edged out the discourteous teenagers who treated us to unruly behavior late at night in the hallway right outside our hotel room.

To be fair, the kids only finished third in the competition, by virtue of the fact that they probably couldn’t control their behavior because they were illegally drunk at the time. No doubt they were merely exercising their First Amendment right to “peacefully assemble and use the expression ‘fuckin’ dude’ at annoyingly strident decibel levels.”

This wasn’t the Washington our forefathers designed.

Fortunately there WERE manners, decency, and morals on display in OTHER quarters of our nation’s capitol.

The heroes of character included the kids who posed with their folks for a picture we snapped of them standing in front of The White House. Right before the shutter clicked, they knowingly asked their parents, “We should remove our baseball caps, first, right?”

There was also the humble and grateful African immigrant who served us a delicious dinner at his restaurant in Alexandria, even though it infringed on his normal closing time at Hawwi, the Ethiopian word for “dream.”

And thanks to the inquisitive employee at the Shake Shack for spotting my Washington Nationals’ cap and asking all about my interest in her favorite baseball team. She was friendly and charming and a fine ambassador for her employer.

First runner-up in the heroes department: the manager of a downtown CVS, who gave us a discount even though we didn’t have the requisite bonus card to present at the register. Honorable mention goes to the security guard at The Hirshhorn Museum, who let us sneak in a side door rather than walk all the way around the entire building in the searing heat to reach the main entrance.

So, civility DOES exist in Washington, DC. You just have to know where to find it. (Hint: it’s probably not waving a Confederate flag.)

Dave Coombs is a longtime morning radio host whose show is on 100.7 FM WUTQ, and is also available on your computer or on your phone.

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