2005-06-30 / View From the Middle

Ground Zero Is A Monument To 9/11 Dead — And That’s All It Should Be

View From The Middle
By Charles Rogers


Governor Pataki last Friday finally took a stand and said there will be no America-bashing at the Ground Zero Memorial site and that anything that denigrates America or New York or freedom there will not be tolerated.

He said this in answer to thousands of protests that, besides existing as a memorial to the nearly 3,000 that perished on 9/11/01, the area will also contain an “International Freedom Center,” where, it is feared, exhibits showing the struggle against ty-ranny and terror will focus on negative acts like slavery and the treatment of Indians, not to mention — because it is international — the Holocaust and the pogroms and gulags and, Lord knows, anything of a negative nature that eventually comes to mind. There was even talk that there would be displays of the treatment of terror suspects at Guantanamo by American soldiers. As seen in the daily tabloids last week, an art gallery called “The Drawing Center” that exhibits some paintings depicting explicit anti-American vulgarity is even to be a part of the Free-dom Center.

Now, I’m definitely anti-censorship and of a mind that art of any kind, painted, written, sung or danced to, is all right — in its place. The site of the World Trade Center Memorial is not the place. Even near the site is not the place. Kudos to Pataki for his stand, although I still worry about how diplomatic his words were, such as telling aides to contact the cultural institutions and “get from them an absolute guarantee that as they proceed it will be with total respect for the sanctity of that site.” Some might say he couldn’t be stronger than that, but he’s a politician leaving too many doors open for some of the wrong things to slip in (It’s obvious I’m an untrusting soul). Think about fifty or a hundred or three hundred years from now, when — hopefully — the memorial is standing and people are not even thinking about what was said here and now. They are only thinking about what they see and what it depicts.

Despite all the words being said by politicians and builders and architects who say they have nothing but the most solemn and sincere intentions, there are still those within the very committees organizing the memorial that have their own elitist agendas; those who apparently feel that merely by calling it a Freedom Center, the struggles within that context must be depicted.

That’s wrong. Ground Zero is a memorial. There are, essentially, nearly 3,000 bodies entombed there. It’s a grave — a burial place — and it should be respected no less than that of a plot in a cemetery. We don’t see anything marring Arlington National Cemetery, or the eternal flame on the burial site of John F. Kennedy and we give those entities their due respect.

My fear is based on a number of things, the very first of which I heard myself on 9/12/01 when a high-level, nationally known cleric — a pompous, nationally known, high-level cleric whose name I will not divulge lest I be relegated to hell — said we Americans were indirectly responsible for the tragedy of the World Trade Center attack because of our reckless lives. I can imagine there are those with similar thoughts who would cite slavery and other past faults and want to highlight them next to, or as part of, the memorial.

While those episodes in our history are important, especially as they depict the many fights for freedom, deserve their highlighted spot, we must put the so-called International Freedom Center miles away from the memorial so it will not be a blight on the final resting place of the innocents.

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