There’s an old saying about describing someone who is less than smart, “The lights are on, but nobody’s home.”
The pictures of a darkened White House during last weekend’s protests outside its gilded and guarded gates recalled that maxim, because on or off, metaphorically, nobody has been home in the White House during the last three and half years, and as a result it has decayed and this week became defaced.
The White House, home to Abraham Lincoln, Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama sits vacant and vacuous. The White House, incubator of famous addresses to the nation, peace signing treaties, and landmark legislation ceremonies, has had nothing positive to show for the last three and half years. Once majestic, it’s sadistic, sitting idle and portentous during this indelible and odious moment in our nation’s history.
With storied rooms like the East Room, Lincoln Bedroom, and the Oval Office, the only room with a story now is its underground bunker.
A building that has hosted and housed Nobel Prize winners, world leaders, kings, queens, and popes, now shelters dogs that sic and ominous weapons.
Also known as the People’s House, its hallowed grounds, with a Rose Garden, Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, and a Children’s Garden are now engulfed by military vehicles, the U.S. Park Police, the Secret Service, the D.C. metropolitan police, mounted forces, national guardspersons and an array of nearly a dozen more federal agents.
How many more entities does it take to keep its empty-headed occupant safe? The dweller sits like a spoiled and frightened child tweeting from the basement. Perhaps that’s where he belongs, downstairs with the garbage, the infestation, and the sewer. Too unfit, unstable and undesirable to be allowed upstairs in the White House’s revered quarters.
Then on Monday, it all violently and shamefully exploded, creating the grimmest picture of the White House in history. The People’s House went dark — again — this time in the glow of a June evening sun. Its most rabid hound was released from the basement. And the hounds of police, guards, horses, batons and tear gas, at the behest of a beast, were violently released to vanquish, bully, and beat a peaceful multitude of protestors, sweeping them away like autocratic street cleaners.
All so that the nation’s atrocious autocrat, the personification of bigotry, racism, and white elitism could hypocritically pose in front of a boarded church that he further disfigured by senselessly standing with a Bible, which was pulled out of his daughter's $1,500 handbag. It’s surprising that both the church and the Bible didn’t melt and burn in the midst of his evil and sanctimonious heat that is far hotter than any tear gas canister.
On Monday, the once illustrious White House suddenly looked different and foreboding. The white columns reawakening thoughts of a mansion on a foregone southern plantation. Its white wash now expressive of white “domination” — the new buzzword of the property’s possessor. The windows reflecting the all-white prejudiced posse of Trump, Barr, Esper, Meadows, and McEnany who posed, glared and stared back from across the street. While blocks away, people — Americans — stood dazed, coughing, and crying.
The admiration that has always existed for the White House was only matched by the beacon of hope, headship and history that it used to inspire. During a Civil War, a Great Depression, two World Wars, and 9/11, words from the White House, and the structure’s very aura, have comforted, lifted, empathized, and healed. Now, perhaps during its — and our — darkest hour, we hear words from that residence that are unsettled, unsmoothed, and unseemly.
Never before has a building that has been so welcoming become so threatening. Lines of crowds that used to queue up for White House tours, Easter egg hunts, and holiday decorations, now stand lined in solidarity and defiance, prohibited not only from getting close to the building, but from exercising their rights to free speech. Once the backdrop for gorgeous pictures, the White House’s palette now blighted by tear gas smoke, rows and rows of menacing fences, darkened windows, and darker speech.
Fans of the building used to listen in awe about its history and veneration; now they overhear words that fan the flames of unrest emanating from the very place that preached sovereignty, liberty, and independence. The press conference announcing that the U.S. military would be “ordered” to fight its own people was held in that beautiful Rose Garden. The flowers must have cracked from the bloviators' bluster. The garden, the last picturesque spot on the grounds, left wilted and ruined by an abhorrent abomination.
While some buildings around the country have been damaged during the protests, perhaps no building has been damaged more than the White House. The desecration of the People’s House started a few years ago, but it’s demolition has been stepped up rapidly this week, and its devastation rot by its most recent felonious resident.
What happened Monday in front, around and inside the White House will forever be a blight on its history. The damage that has been done will take years to fix. When will we be able to trust the White House again? When will we feel safe going inside? Or nearby? Will what happened on its darkest day ever be forgotten? Should it be?
Loudly, desperately, and longingly, we yearn for a return to a hospitable White House whose future inhabitants have their lights on always, and can restitute it to its rightful place among the pantheons of peace. Until then, we can only hope that while the president tries to light a match to spark the country’s unrest, he doesn’t leave it burning and further scorch the most famous residence in the world — the one that used to be affectionately known as the People’s House.