The National Park Service is presently accepting comments about a proposal to honor Brigadier General Francis Marion with a memorial in the District of Columbia. I’ll be honest I didn’t know who the guy was until I read this piece by Sadie Dingfelder in the Washington Post about it. This project and this process is wrought with examples of how powerless District citizens are over even the small things about our daily lives such as neighborhood parks. It is also sadly ironic that a ‘war hero’ who fought to end a system of taxation without representation might be memorialized in the last place in the free world where such a system still exists.
While I’m offended by the prospect of a memorial statue for Francis “Swamp Fox” Marion to be erected in a park where my daughter plays I’m down right angered by the process by which this come about. Though owned by the National Park Service (NPS) Marion Park like many in the District is a community park, decidedly different than most of NPS’ portfolio across the country. Park spaces managed by NPS and the District’s Department of Parks and recreation are interwoven into all of the District’s neighborhoods and serve a variety of recreational and aesthetic purposes. One purpose that these neighborhood parks should not serve as is to fulfill fantasies of days gone by for outsiders wishing to honor old war heroes. If the people of South Carolina, or to be precise if a stockbroker from Columbia, South Carolina thinks that Francis Marion is deserving of a national memorial I suggest he find a nice spot in one of the many thousands of acres of NPS land in the Palmetto state not here in the District where we did not ask for it nor do we want it.
This issue isn’t just about Brig. Gen. Marion’s memorial it’s about the District’s lack of control over even the simplest matters. It’s a park, it’s a small lovely neighborhood park that children, including my daughter, like to play in. It’s a place where people in the neighborhood like to walk their dogs. But because it’s a neighborhood park owned by the federal government in the District of Columbia one person from South Carolina has the ability through money combined with actual representation in Congress to push this through so that District citizens can only comment at the very tail end of such a process.
Our status is wholly unacceptable and District citizens should speak out against the Francis Marion Memorial in all the proposed locations because we did not ask for this nor do we want it. Neighbors should make decisions about neighborhood parks not citizens from hundreds of miles away, their representatives in Congress, or members of the National Capital Planning Commission. While the federal government has a right (and now legal responsibility) to establish some type of memorial they have a responsibility to be respectful of the community’s concerns where they want to locate it. District citizens should speak out against the Francis Marion Memorial because it is both a bad project and a bad process.
I for one don’t want a Francis Marion Memorial in any neighborhood park in the District, federally owned or District owned, unless District citizens are leading the cause. This is a distinctly federal initiative and while I think the best place for such a memorial is the state of South Carolina the second best is to cram it on the Mall somewhere not in residential neighborhoods that didn’t ask for it.
And if this is imposed on us against our will District citizens should not back down or back off. We’ve been pushed around for too long by too many and at some point we have to stand up for our parks, our city, and ourselves.