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George Washington has rolled over in his sarcophagus, to hear some critics tell it. A plan to use the monument as part of a pyrotechnical countdown to the millennium is disrespectful, they say, a shameful misuse of a national shrine.

It's a heartfelt interpretation, no doubt, but nonetheless one to which the proper response is: Oh, lighten up.

The proposal is to turn the monument into a 550-foot sparkler by attaching fireworks to the scaffolding that encases the structure while it undergoes renovation. The effect, according to the Associated Press, will be to send brilliant white sparks cascading down the monument, like a waterfall.

Rep. Ralph Regula of Ohio calls it desecration, and a fair-minded person can see his point. It's hard to imagine the Lincoln Memorial being used in so light-hearted a fashion, for example.

But that monument really is different. Its reverential design sets it apart, as does the statue of a sorrowful and exhausted president. And its associations -- slavery, the Civil War, the March on Washington -- make it unsuitable for such a light-hearted purpose. It really is a shrine.

But as revered a figure as Washington is, his national monument is of a different sort. It is a spare and striking obelisk, with no likeness of this remarkable man whatsoever.

What's more, as confident a leader as Washington was, he foreswore the trappings of royalty and reverence. He was a man elected to do a job. He could have been king, but after two terms, he walked away.

Such a man might enjoy seeing his rather stern memorial used to celebrate a new millennium and his country's continued liveliness as its dawning. On with the show.

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