It’s been roughly half a decade since my last tour with a choir, and this year my return to the grand adventure was set in the area of our nation’s capital. Over the course of two days, we spent about six hours roaming the city on free time. I was very happy to finally mark a couple spots in Washington off my list of places to see, but at the same time I couldn’t help but take serious notice of the monster surrounding me. I truly do not wish to become one of those who politicize every aspect of life, but the message and atmosphere in DC is so overwhelming it cannot simply be ignored. I came away from Washington not with a sense of awe or pride in our nation, but rather with great sadness.

One of the first things you notice on arriving in DC is its density. Now, this is hardly anything to find surprising in a large city, until you see the signs announcing the purposes of so many of them. Building after building after building, all dedicated to some particular aspect of the federal government. We all know our government is large, but as so often is the case, visuals can drive home a point much more clearly. And then in the back of your mind you realize that only a fraction of this monstrous machine is represented here. These aren’t just standard structures, either. Every last one of these federal buildings is of a scale worthy of a Titan. Exhibiting the highest in architectural traditions and constructed of stone and concrete, they exude an imposing permanence and strength.

Next, you will undoubtedly take notice of the ever-present security. It seems as though every building is guarded with either checkpoints or unapproachable perimeters. On one day, to even enter a building for lunch I was subjected to a search of my belongings and scans. It was made clear upon entering that I was assumed to have nefarious intentions and had to prove myself benign. It was sickening. Our great nation’s capital has become little more than a monument to fear and paranoia—to our growing police state. I challenge any rational person to spend a day in DC and come away still convinced we live in a free society. I know there are many who will say, “But how else can safety be ensured, especially in such a valued place?” There can be no compromise between Liberty and the police state. To sacrifice the slightest bit of Liberty in the interests of “security” is to grant victory to the attacker. The quixotic quest for safety through the State has done nothing but bring us to where we are now.

I spent my second day in DC finally getting to visit the World War II Memorial and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. In the midst of an increasingly tyrannical State, I wished to honor those who gave of their lives to defeat tyranny. Surrounded by a city that spelled out in detail where my Liberty ended, I wished to honor the author of our most sublime declaration of Liberty. While off at my beloved Jefferson’s memorial, I couldn’t help but notice its separation from the rest of the National Mall and the center of government. At first I was annoyed by this segregation, but upon reflection I found it most appropriate. Indeed, the despotic monster we have created is so very distant from the republic Jefferson and most of our founders intended. As Jefferson’s statue stands defiant, looking across the water to the federal government’s heart, I can’t help but detect disapproval in his expression.

Soon, may we once again make Liberty our primary (maybe even only) concern. May the cause of Liberty continue the work of the 2011 earthquake and bring our monstrous servant-turned-despot crumbling back before its masters.