Opinion: Sacred Sites, and Their Stories, Must Be Saved

July 22, 2007


Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- It's hard to imagine a more powerful example of a sacred place than the U.S. Capitol. Early Thursday morning, hours before the solstice, the scene was already one of summer. Tourists wandered the grounds in shorts while congressional staffers rushed off to meetings. A cool breeze moderated the rising temperature, granting a temporary clemency from heat and humidity. A chorus of birds was interrupted by the urgency of the city: a steady stream of noisy traffic and the g-rrring motors from construction equipment.

This is a sacred place for Americans because it represents the crossroads of democracy.

Sacred places are where our stories are planted. Sometimes they are religious stories, but they could also be stories that tell about the human spirit or carry the memory of tragedy.

Or, like the Capitol grounds, a little of both. This ground has witnessed civil rights marches, inaugurations, festivals, family vacations and the everyday business of self-government. Yet it stands as something more.

Thursday was that something more. When you think about "protection" of such a public space, it usually includes police officers, security equipment or some other intervention. The idea itself rarely needs protection.

But that's not true for all sacred sites.