Sunday, August 28, 2005

Taxation Without Representation

In the same vein of my recent commentary about state mottos and license plate snippets, I'd like to talk a little bit about Washington, DC.

You don't see many DC license plates in California, but they crop up fairly frequently on the highways of New England. A striking element of their design is the use of the phrase "Taxation Without Representation" at the bottom of the plate:


While driving, I like to take everything in and then immediately spout it out again as quickly as possible, with or without sassy commentary. I have a joke with my lovely traveling companion that this is because I am like a shark. Apparently, if a shark stops swimming, it will die. I, by comparison, must continue speaking in order to stave off an untimely natural death.

"Taxation Without Representation - that's stupid. They left off the 'No'," I say dumbly. I naively assumed that DC was some kind of super patriotic unified force which would extol the virtues of American politics at all costs. I thought the license plate was simply an attempt to publicly share a civic exuberance about that famous revolutionary statement. But how ridiculous that they'd leave off the "No!" [Ed: the original 2005 version of this post used an offensive term in place of "ridiculous"]

"Maybe it's a protest, because DC doesn't have representation," my companion offers logically. I had never considered the possibility, but sure! Washington DC doesn't have seats in the Senate or representatives in the Congress! It's a protest! I found it difficult to believe that the city at the center of our national government could be so sassy in the company of the very men and women who oppress them, but later on the internet I did confirm the truth of this theory. There is a major movement in DC (and presumably from outside of DC) to establish basic voting rights for its citizens that the rest of us enjoy carelessly. There was even a movement a few years ago to add the curtailed phrase to a redesigned DC flag.

It's almost a cliche for most Americans that we have at our disposal the right to complain to our elected representatives. It's even celebrated in song lyrics like this one from "Summertime Blues" by Eddie Cochran:

Well I called my congressman
and he said "whoah"
I'd like to help you son
but you're too young to vote!

Evidentally this song didn't and doesn't resonate in the District of Columbia! I agree that it's ironic and sad that the residents of our country's core, the heart muscle that supposedly pumps a message of freedom throughout the country and world, themselves have no representative to complain to.

Powerless, all they can do is stamp a sassy phrase onto their license plates! So they do!


Sue Ann said...

Actually they have represenatives with no voting rights. Therefore they are taxed but have no voice in the feneral government.

Sue Ann said...

Opps, I mean FEDERAL government.

Daniel Jalkut said...

Interesting distinction - I guess it's a fair argument that non-voting representation is pretty close to no representation, though!

Anonymous said...

DC residents should stop bitching. i mean, they get electors in the most holy of democratic institutions — the Electoral College.


They easily have the best state (or district) flag design. Hands down.

Daniel Jalkut said...

Hi Andy - thanks for commenting ! I am honored to have you here. I suppose my description of your efforts as a major movement was bit of wishful thinking and perhaps uninformed. Anyway, I hope I was at least partially right, and I wish you well in your efforts.

I continue to be impressed by the DC license plates when I see them.