The Fight for the National Mall: The Devaluing Of The U.S.

by on October 14, 2015
 

  Recently, I read an article on NPR that posed a slightly unsettling question: Do we really need the National Mall? For those that might be reading this from a country outside of the United States, which is highly likely. The National Mall is located in Washington D.C. and is a government funded park that houses various museums and iconic national monuments like the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. All of these monuments are free and open to the public.

    The National Mall also houses the Smithsonian museums, which celebrate the achievements of Americans over the existence of our country.  In these museums, our darkest histories and greatest achievements in art, science, and culture are celebrated and examined. Unfortunately, due to the financial climate in the United States the federal government over the years has cut back maintaining the Mall and now the site needs $300 million dollars worth of maintenance and restorations.

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– Image by Bill Holmes –

   Asking whether a place that holds so much importance is necessary is baffling to me. Although NPR may have been posing the question in a tongue and cheek way, I think that the question caused a debate in the comment section of the article was unsettling. Comments ranged from “I don’t see the value in this place” to “aren’t there better ways to spend our money.”

   To those comments I say: Is the history of our country valuable? Is science valuable? Is art valuable? Since this is an arts website, let’s just focus on the question: Is art valuable?

   Over the course of my life, I have been disturbed by the continual devaluing of art. While art as a commodity continues to grow in importance.  Art having social and cultural importance continues to fall. Perhaps because it is often confused with entertainment. While art does entertain, true art makes us question our values, beliefs, and fundamentally reveals something about ourselves.

  These kinds of insights are found in our museums and public monuments these things are not commodities to be traded. Places like the National Mall are invaluable and ignoring that is an insult to our history and our fundamental values as a nation.

    I encourage every who might read this article to donate to the Trust of the National Mall and preserve our values.

Featured Image by Scott Ableman
  • John Timm

    Like many other items in need of funding, the Mall is caught in the middle of the sequestration conflict between the House of Representatives and the White House.