On a recent visit to the Lincoln Memorial during one of those sweatbox afternoons that are common to Washington, D.C. in July, a hellfire-and-brimstone preacher stood at the base of the steps leading up the monument, holding a Bible, declaiming about idolatry and pointing toward the majestic, seated statue of Abraham Lincoln that gazes out toward the Capitol and the Washington Monument.
It was off-putting. What could anyone in the 21st century, no matter their political or religious persuasion, have against Lincoln and the neo-classical memorial that commemorates him? That he is one of our greatest presidents is beyond dispute. That the memorial is one of the sacred spaces in American life is without question.
That space was violated sometime early Friday morning when vandals splashed the statue and the nearby floor with green paint. The site was closed to the many tourists who flock to it in the hours after the incident as officials cleaned up the mess.
There was no apparent motive for the defacement. And though pointless, random vandalism should always raise the collective blood pressure, defiling the Lincoln Memorial should be a source of special outrage.