Why D.C. Must Be Free

It's easy to take unearned rights for granted. Most go about their daily lives without an inkling of a thought as to how fortunate we are to live at a time in which many of the hardest battles for justice have been bravely fought and largely won. Though vestiges of struggle continue, the big battles, those which shaped how the basic principles upon which we define what freedom, justice and equality would look like in this nation, have long since been resolved. And while the actualization of these ideals remain imperfect, at least most would agree with the assertion that freedom, democracy, and liberty are but the minimal privileges citizenship in this nation should bestow.

How ironic, those basic tenets of U.S. citizenship so freely given throughout the nation remain elusive in the lives of those who live within the confines of the capital city. No where else in this nation do citizens fail to have the right to elect local representatives who can make unilateral decisions regarding how to spend revenue collected from that locality. No where else in this nation do citizens elect Congressional representatives who get to Congress only to be denied the power of a Congressional vote. Nowhere else is that basic original tea party principle of "No Taxation Without Representation" so egregiously violated.

Not only an affront to what we as a nation purport to stand for, the implications of federal stewardship over the District of Columbia have been real and often damaging. Take for example the District's current crisis in the battle against HIV. Now home to the highest rate of infection in the nation, few know that for years, over the wishes of the duly-elected city council, a conservative Congress blocked the implementation of much-needed needle exchange programs. Even when such programs became commonplace in other urban areas, the needs of the citizens of the District fell victim to the federal political winds of the day.

The same could be said for more recent actions. One of the most egregious fall-outs from the 2010 Congressional elections was its swift action to deny full reproductive rights to poor women who reside within the District of Columbia. Women who did not and could not vote for or against those who had just stripped away the rights they would have otherwise enjoyed.

In the words of the man whose face now emerges upon the monuments that span the city's landscape, "None of us is free until all of us are free."

Now is the time to free D.C.