Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Signs of Peace on the Market Place

For many years to come, September 12th will be a day dedicated to reviewing what happened the day before. It will be strewn with artifacts from September 11th far into the foreseeable future.

Today, the Church Street Market Place is strewn with leftovers from yesterday's demonstrations marking 9-11.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, given the political climate in Burlington, the most prominent leftovers are peace signs, hurriedly scribbled on the brick street.

While I don't disagree with the underlying symbolism, I was very sad to see that people found it necessary to deface public property in order to make their point about George W. Bush's war.

I was sitting near the top of Church Street this morning, drinking my coffee, and I watched a Marketplace employee pull up his cleaning cart, pour some water over one of the poorly executed peace symbols and scrub hard with a bristle brush for a few moments. It quickly became clear that this piece of graffiti would not wipe away easily.

As he was driving away, presumably to collect a heavier arsenal of cleaning products, I asked him what he was going to have to do to remove the peace sign. "Well, probably, I'm going to have to use acid," he said. "The chalk ain't so bad, but when they use crayons or paints, it just soaks right into these old bricks."

Acid! I thought. And then I imagined the barefoot toddlers who would be running in and out of the fountain and across those acid covered bricks once the sun had climbed higher in the sky.

And how long, I asked, will it take to clean these up? "Oh, let's see, I've been at it since around seven this morning...it's almost 10 now, and I still haven't got too far...so, well, at least longer than three hours."

I suppose someone could look at these peace signs and think: "Cool. No matter how hard THE MAN scrubs, the truth won't rub out."

But I can't see it that way. All I could think of was the money we as a city were paying for this labor...we could have put it toward a band, or housing subsidies, or urban renovation.

But why not let the message stand? Of course the answer to that seems easy to me- but I'll be obvious...if you have the right to scribble peace signs, what would prevent someone else from scribbling swastikas?

"With great power comes great responsibility." Sure, it's a line from a Spiderman movie, but that doesn't make it any less true.

Being right is pretty powerful stuff...but with that, of course, comes responsibility. Attempting to spread a message of truth by putting graffiti on public property doesn't add to that power...it only detracts.

To put it another way...Adults take a stand and do something...very little children write on walls.

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