Popular tourist spots in the capital were defaced last month. The base of the statue at the Lincoln Memorial, a pipe organ at Washington National Cathedral and statues outside the Smithsonian Castle were spattered indiscriminately with green paint. People across the country were appalled.
On Wednesday the statue in Brooklyn of Jackie Robinson, the first black player in Major League Baseball, was spray-painted with racist graffiti. A vandal scribbled racial epithets and anti-Semitic rants on the statue that depicts white Brooklyn Dodgers teammate Pee Wee Reese putting his arm around Robinson,
Both incidents were enough to raise the public's ire.
In Washington, police arrested and charged a 58-year-old woman, Jiamei Tian, who frequents parks and soup kitchens. In New York, a $50,000 reward is being offered for information leading to a conviction. The objects have been cleaned, but the outrage over their desecration is still raw.
If the intent by the Brooklyn perpetrator(s) was to undermine the interracial friendship symbolized by the statue, it failed. If the Washington vandal meant to send some kind of anti-Lincoln or anti-church message it's hard to know what it was.
These and other public icons tell the stories of America and symbolize its principles. Those who deface them commit a crime not just against property but against the nation's values -- and must be dealt with firmly.