This photo shows the edge of Lafayette Square, where a group of students all sitting in black sat on the front steps of a private building. This group sat on the steps for about thirty minutes before they all got up at once and started walking in the direction of the White House. Whether this was a tour or a protest of some sort, I found the meeting place to be significant. Not only did they all meet directly across from the Square, but they sat and stayed in those positions for quite a while.
This photograph plays into many different aspects of Lafayette Square as a whole. Initially, I noticed the divide that the Square created in the geographical layout of the city. The Square serves to somewhat separate the political buildings from the more business oriented sector of the city. While this divide is not finite, it is definitely present. Another interesting thing I noticed about the park that can be found in the photograph is the amount of the park that is fenced off from the public. Many grass-covered areas or benches where fenced off from the general public, creating an environment where it would feel more natural to ‘walk through’ than to ‘linger’. This made the area seem less like that of a park and more like something to view.
In part one, section three of David Fleming’s City of Rhetoric, Fleming discusses the neighborhood community as a political tool. Fleming begins this section on the neighborhood by defining said space as, “A smaller democracy, where ordinary individuals can engage in person, in public judgement and decision making, where politics can be the everyday literal enactment of every citizen’s freedom and equality”(43). In this, Fleming adds a non-spacial piece to the definition of a neighborhood, defining it as a place where, on a small scale, the purest form of the democratic process is carried out. Fleming notes that the most civically active neighborhoods and communities are those that fall on the smaller side, population wise. Along with this purity and followed sense of political duty, Fleming states, is the common criticism of the politics done in these neighborhoods. This criticism being that smaller communities that practice their democratic rights through local politics tend to be very homogeneous in their political views.
Fleming introduces an interesting side effect of this homogeneity: the loss of true individual freedom in the democratic process. Fleming notes another side effect of political homogeneity, the lack of “ conflict needed for genuine political engagement” (48). To me, this lack of conflict negates some positive aspects of such an involved democracy, limiting the neighborhoods potential for diversity or progression.