It goes without saying that Washington, DC is filled with things to do. As the nation’s capital, DC boasts the sites of government power and function. It is filled with buildings and monuments of unbelievable historical importance. Its museums are a testament to human history and inquiry. Its sports teams are now (reasonably) competitive. Its cultural offerings are superior. There are more things to do here in DC and the surrounding areas than even the most aggressive tourist could do in a month. Like a lot of military folks, I’m a transplant to DC. But it doesn’t take an overly sentimental person to realize that native DC residents are rightfully proud of their home and what it has to offer.
The thing I’ve always found a little off-putting about DC is its vehicle license plates . They proudly, or defiantly, or rebelliously declare –in big block letters—TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION. Not, “Capital of the World”, not “Let Freedom Ring”, not “Monuments to Freedom”. I could go on…maybe I will: “Global Police Headquarters”… “Don’t Tread On Me”… “This Land Was Made For You And Me”.
I may be a little out of my element here, but wouldn’t you want a phrase on a license plate to reflect well on your home state (or in this case, federal district)? To suggest something welcoming or flattering about it? To emphasize a little civic pride and to demonstrate a fondness for your ‘home’?
The residents of Washington, DC can say one thing or touch on one unifying theme about themselves and their pride of place in the country and in the world. They have an opportunity to deliver one message to the rest of the nation…
And they’ve chosen a complaint. A grievance.
Imagine if other states adopted this strategy:
Texas: “Good Lord, It’s Hot!”
New York: “Yes, The State. Not The City”, or "You Know...We're A STATE Too"
Michigan: “Dang, There Are Too Many Lakes!” or “We Glove You Long Time” (Actually, it’s shape is a mitten…”We’re Smitten Here”…cue groans)
California: “Dude, There Are A LOT Of Hippies”
Indiana’s license plate reads “Crossroads of America”. I’ve always read it as "Indiana: Just Passing Through”
Kansas: “Flatter Than A Pancake”, which it actually is.
Washington (State…see also ‘New York’): “World Headquarters Of Seasonal Affective Disorder”
Montana: “None Of Those Pesky Neighbors For Miles”
Florida: “What’s With All The Geezers?”
You get the picture.
I don’t live in DC, so I don’t have any skin in the game. And though I think there’s something to be said about the idea that though DC is home to the US legislature, there are no DC representatives in Congress. It certainly is a valid concern. DC does have a delegate with limited voting powers, and it does have three Electoral College votes at stake. Still, though this idea has been debated and many proposed solutions have been offered, DC is unique in this respect: it has no direct representatives in Congress.
I’ll let the lawyers and the constitutional scholars hash this one out. But for me, a vehicle license plate should be about marketing and image. Personally, DC plates strike me as more ‘tantrum’ than ‘tact’, more ‘petulance’ than ‘pride’.
To each his own, I guess. Until the tax man comes, and takes it away.