Saturday, February 29, 2020

Still Life with Robin: The Stuff of Statehood

DC Coat of Arms (Wikimedia Commons)
by Peggy Robin

DC has had a couple of milestones lately:

1. Last week Mayor Bowser signed a bill designating Go Go Music as DC’s official music (

And 2. At the end of January, the DC Council held a hearing to designate the Little Brown Bat as DC’s official state mammal; now that bill appears to be headed for adoption without opposition (It's bill B23-0302, and I wrote about it in this space on February 1, to say that that I'm not totally sold on the idea of having a nasty little bat as our official state mammal. There are better choices out there.

What I’m really in favor of is for DC (which is not yet a state but one day may become one), to have as many of the official trappings of statehood as, say, Vermont or Wyoming -- the two states with fewer people than DC. But Vermont has 32 state symbols (see them here), while Wyoming has 28 (see them here).  DC has a mere 7. It seems like a good idea for DC to get a leg up in this game, and take on as much official state stuff as we can muster, while still in our pre-state condition. That way, if and when we finally do become a state, we’ll be coming in fully loaded with all the symbols and trappings of statehood. We’ll be state-ier than most -- if we just start working on it now!

Here are the seven we already have on board:  

Official state music: Go Go
Official state bird: The Wood Thrush.
Official state dinosaur: The Capitalsaurus
Official state rock: The Potomac Bluestone
Official state fruit: The Cherry
Official state tree: The Scarlet Oak
Official state motto: “Justitia Omnibus”* 

[* No, the DC state motto is NOT "Taxation without representation," although it's on been on the license plate since 2000. State mottoes tend to be in Latin and put forth some lofty ideal, while license plates tend to be about tourist attractions (e.g., "Land of 10,000 Lakes" for MN; Grand Canyon State for AZ). DC uses its license plate, on the other hand, to call attention to our peculiar political grievance. It's valid, sure -- but it's not State Motto material.] 

According to StateSymbolsUSA, there are FORTY-TWO different categories of official state designated things. So, at seven (or eight, when the little brown bat becomes our Official State Mammal), that just one-sixth of the number of official state stuff we COULD have.

I propose filling another seven categories right away, with the following items:

For Official State Insect: I nominate the 17-year cicada ( When you have something that noisy, that attention-grabbing – but it only shows up once every 17 year years – work it, baby! 

For Official State Aquatic Animal: We have Potomac River Dolphins. The scientists at the Potomac  Conservancy have been tracking and naming them (see – and now it’s time to make them our official state marine animals. 

For State Dog: K-9 Service Dog. We have so many different law enforcement units here in DC, with many of them assisted by K-9 units of highly trained police dogs, and what better way to honor their service than to name the K-9 Service Dog as our Official State Dog.

For Official State Flower: By rights, the DC Official State Tree should be the Yoshino Cherry Tree – but alas, that position is already taken up by The Scarlet Oak. So in compensation, let’s name the Yoshino Cherry Blossom as our Official State Flower.

For Official State Museum: What else could it be but the DC History Center at the Carnegie Library (a/k/a The Apple Store)?

For Official State Gemstone: The Hope Diamond, the crown jewel of the Smithsonian collection, once owned by Washington DC heiress and socialite Evalyn Walsh McLean. Other states have generic gems that are mined within their borders, but only DC has a State Gemstone that is widely believed to be cursed!

For Official State Food: It's Mumbo Sauce! (Sometimes spelled Mambo Sauce, but still pronounced "Mumbo".) It wasn't all that famous until Mayor Muriel Bowser proclaimed her dislike for it - and then everyone jumped up and down and said it was the great, iconic flavor of DC. So let's prove it by making it official, And make the official spelling "Mumbo" to put an end to that controversy at the same time.

I've left untouched so many interesting and varied categories: state song; state amphibian; state reptile; state pie; state shrub. You can bet this won't be my last column on the subject!

Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.     

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