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Monday 21 Aug 2017 | 13:17 | SYDNEY
Monday 21 Aug 2017 | 13:17 | SYDNEY

Knowing America by its licence plates

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7 April 2008 14:48

One way of getting a quick insight into a community's perception of itself is to check out its licence plates — or more precisely, the little slogan the authorities have selected to write across the top of the plates. My home state of New South Wales reveals a bit of its pride with 'The First State'. Victoria struggles along with 'The Place To Be'. New York is 'The Empire State', while efficient but boring Maryland contents itself with 'www.maryland.gov'.  

So how does the District of Columbia sum up contribution to the world? 'Taxation without representation'. Now, I understand the motive behind this — DC's argument for statehood and equal voting rights — and I can see why District politicos might want to connect their plight with that of the early American colonies. But does the District have nothing positive to say about itself? 'The nation's capital', for instance, or 'Does great monuments'? The slogan doesn't even have the rude defiance of 'No taxation without representation' — it's more like a metallic shrug of the shoulders. Dammit, this kind of resignation is un-American!

The fact is, Washington is one of the great cities. It's got huge issues, of course, but it's also got wonderful neighbourhoods, a fascinating history, a host of big characters and a surprisingly strong sense of community. Surely it can do better than 'taxation without representation'. Suggestions, anyone?

Photo by Flickr user nollij, used under a Creative Commons licence.

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