The fight for “freedom”

The fight for “freedom”

: There are a few doozies in yesterday’s architectural review by Nicolai Ouroussoff of the new International Freedom Center designs set for the World Trade Center.

But the experience soon becomes Orwellian. The center’s upper-level galleries will be arranged in a spiral around the central light well. Under the current design, visitors will have to ride an elevator to the top and then walk back down along the spiral on a so-called “Freedom Walk.” This kind of manipulation seems silly, especially in a museum that celebrates freedom. By echoing the ramps down into the memorial pools, the downward spiral implies a direct connection between the cataclysm of 9/11 and a global struggle for “freedom” – a bit of simplistic propaganda. (An early rendering of the Freedom Center that was circulated at the development corporation’s offices included an image of a woman flashing a victory sign after voting in the recent Iraqi elections; that image has been replaced by a photo of Lyndon B. Johnson and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)

Oh, I would say there is a most direct connection between “the cataclysm of 9/11 and a global struggle for ‘freedom.’” We needn’t put quote marks around “freedom” — which is as good as saying “so-called freedom” — when it comes to freeing people from the opression of the Islamic fanatics who did this deed and ruled Afghanistan and threaten people throughout the world. We need to fight for freedom from their terror and tyranny. That’s not about “freedom.” That’s about freedom. In what world is extolling freedom is “Orwellian” “propaganda?”

And I’m offended by the substitution of a photo that more than symbolizes freedom in Iraq. That is precisely the photo that should be in a museum about freedom, damnit.

The review ends with this:

What is missing at ground zero is a sense of humility. This is something that cannot be remedied by reducing the scale of a building. We should refocus attention on what matters most: remembering the human beings who were lost at ground zero, while allowing life to return to the void there. The rest is a pointless distraction.

I don’t understand the use of the word “humility” any more than I understand the use of the words “Orwellian” or “propaganda” in this setting — and apparently no better than the critic understands the use of the word “freedom” in this context. Is “humility” a proxy for the notion that we should ask why they hate us? Let Bill Maher build that building. Or is this the notion that we should stand humbly before the sacrifice of so many good and innocent lives lost? In that case, I agree.

  • beetroot

    I think “humility” in this case means acknowledging that no matter how great our faith in our culture and its mission (call it the “American experiment”), the world is full of forces greater than our collective will.
    An example of humility is the Vietnam memorial – one that manages to rise above the ideological squabble over that war and force viewers to confront the simple reality of death. For better or worse, there it is, and any day of the week you can see people of all political stripes moved to tears by it.
    In my opinon, the WTC memorial should allow visitors to escape the politics that followed that attack, and focus on the bigger picture: the world is beyond our control, people fight, men hate, and sometimes, tragically, innocent people pay the price.
    The last thing I want to see there is some picture of an Iraqi voting – first of all, we don’t have any idea if that really represents an advancement of freedom – but mainly because, lemme be clear about this, the people in the WTC didn’t die for Iraqis, they didn’t die for the “bush doctrine,” they didn’t die for anything political, left or right, at all. They died because they were going to work; they died for their families; they died because the world is bigger than them.
    Being humble, in this case, means looking beyond politics to see the real stuff: human frailty, human hope.

  • PJ

    I agree with Jeff. Wars are always about political ideas, whether we agree with them or not. The feeling that we did not have one worthwhile ideal at stake in Vietnam or that 9/11 was politics-free simply doesn’t wash with me. The world may be ultimately beyond our control–we all one day will surely die–but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything worth fighting for in the meantime.

  • http://victorysoap.us/ Andrea Harris

    In my opinon, the WTC memorial should allow visitors to escape the politics that followed that attack, and focus on the bigger picture: the world is beyond our control, people fight, men hate, and sometimes, tragically, innocent people pay the price.

    So you’re one of those people to whom the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was just a sort of natural disaster?

  • http://oodja.blogspot.com Jersey Exile

    This is an example of humility, Jeff–
    Oklahoma City National Memorial
    What don’t you understand about it?
    Why the Federal Government didn’t buy the WTC site outright and turn it into a park like Oklahoma City still remains a head-scratcher to me. Those 3000+ souls deserve more than a cheap piece of mixed-use architectural propaganda.

  • foreign devil

    ‘Humility’? WTF! Give the job to Trump; he’s never HEARD of humility and thank G*d for that! MORONS!

  • Josh

    Yup, we are supposed to be humiliated for not surrendering immediatly.
    We are supposed to be humiliated for not constantly feeling humiliated.

  • franky

    You’re “offended” that what was clearly a little political point-scoring was removed? Iraq remains controversial among the living, but to put it on a monument to the dead as if they somehow approve of this venture is grotesque (not to mention a lie, as if the freedom of Iraqis was our goal in that war).

  • http://oodja.blogspot.com Jersey Exile

    This is humility–not humiliation or submission, but a solemn acknowledgement of those who perished on that day:
    Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
    Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
    But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
    How are the WTC dead any less deserving of a tranquil and reverent final resting place than those who fell at Gettysburg? Let Donald Trump build his own outstretched middle finger to the world–I have no problem with that whatsoever–but let’s not cheapen the memory of 9/11 any more than it has already been.

  • Ptolemy

    Did the victims consecrate ground zero? They didn’t show up to fight terrorism. They showed up to go to work. A noble enough act in itself but Ground Zero is not Gettysburg. Hardly anyone goes to Gettysburg and maybe that is what Jersey wants with Ground Zero – a note half-buried in a politically correct history book that makes no judgements.
    We are going to build on that site and we are going to do far more with it than we have at Gettysburg. You will just have to deal with it. Pius misery is not America’s style and they will not break us over this.
    The trade centers were attacked for what they were, so returning them to what they were is the ultimate answer. I would prefer no cheesy political posing either but at least the new site will come closer to representing the best of what was.
    What did Hillary want? A school? Yes, another failed union-dominated education establishment would have been the proper answer to Islamic hate. (/s)

  • http://oodja.blogspot.com Jersey Exile

    Hardly anyone goes to Gettysburg
    Interesting claim. Got the numbers to prove that? Didn’t think so–
    (from the National Park Service, Gettysburg National Military Park)
    Total Recreation Visits for FY 2004- 1,719,557
    Pretty good for Nowhere, Pennsylvania. And I bet they don’t even have a Famous Rays…
    “Hardly anyone”, indeed!

  • http://oodja.blogspot.com Jersey Exile

    Pius misery is not America’s style and they will not break us over this.
    What on earth are you talking about, Ptolemy?
    Did the Japanese “break” us because we turned what was left of the USS Arizona into a National Memorial (Total Recreation Visits for FY 2004- 1,563,189, and that’s Hawaii, brother!)? Certainly not. But those doomed souls on board deserved something better than a Sea World or an undersea shopping mall to remember them by, and they got it.
    Does the Pearl Harbor of our century deserve any less? Or are you afraid to give Americans the opportunity to stop and contemplate the events of that day and its equally tumultuous aftermath. Far better to replace it all with something bigger and shinier and more resistant to the persistence of memory.
    Move along, nothing to think about here!

  • Ptolemy

    Does every monument have to have identical themes? Out of 6 billion people does 1 million + really matter? Everyone in the world knows Ground Zero. How many truly know or understand Gettysburg. If you are the tour guide of the site, my apologies for offending you.
    The world trade center was more than a shopping mall. That’s why it was hit.
    “Move along, nothing to think about here!” Step away from the mirror, very slowly. We don’t want anybody hurt.

  • Ptolemy

    While I’m at it: “Did the Japanese “break” us because we turned what was left of the USS Arizona into a National Memorial…” I think the two A-bombs pretty much settled that issue so the quiet monument was probably best.

  • http://oodja.blogspot.com Jersey Exile

    Well now you’re just proving my point, Ptolemy. If the A-bombs settled the issue of not bowing to the Japanese, what have the liberation of Afghanistan and the ousting of Saddam Hussein done vis a vis the War on Terror? Surely we don’t have anything to prove at this point when it comes to our resolve–Americans have enthusiastically committed themselves to driving off whatever cliff our Dear Leader steers us towards.
    If you’re honestly defending the commercialization of what should be one of 21st Century America’s most solemn spaces, then go ahead and do that. But if 9/11 was so important that it “changed the world forever”, shouldn’t we try to do something with the WTC site that doesn’t scream business as usual?

  • http://oodja.blogspot.com Jersey Exile

    Does every monument have to have identical themes?
    I never said the WTC memorial had to be exactly like Gettysburg or Oklahoma City, merely that it should be a memorial first and foremost and not 1,776 vertical feet of freedom-themed office space.
    Out of 6 billion people does 1 million + really matter?
    I was merely calling you on your bullshit comment that no one went to Gettysburg. Even so, 1.7 million a year for hallowed ground ain’t bad considering that Disneyworld gets 14 million. So are you saying that Mickey Mouse doesn’t matter either?
    Everyone in the world knows Ground Zero. How many truly know or understand Gettysburg.
    I think the meaning of Gettysburg is fairly clear–how little you must think of your fellow American to suggest that this isn’t the case. Ground Zero’s lasting meaning however has yet to crystallize, but any way of reimagining the site that hustles the 3000+ souls who died there to the periphery seems wrong to me. We can spend hundreds of billions of dollars on a war effort in Iraq but we can’t buy out Larry Silverstein’s lease to give the 9/11 dead a tribute they truly deserve?
    If you are the tour guide of the site, my apologies for offending you.
    Not a tour guide. Just a guy with a mind for the big picture.
    The world trade center was more than a shopping mall. That’s why it was hit.
    And that’s why it should be commemorated in a dignified and proper manner, not as premium office space for the cowards who relocated their businesses to Jersey in 9/11′s aftermath.
    “Move along, nothing to think about here!” Step away from the mirror, very slowly. We don’t want anybody hurt.
    I don’t deny that 9/11 is a kind of Rorschach test for every American. Is it so bad to look in the mirror every once in a while to make sure you can still live with what you see?

  • Ptolemy

    That is a fair argument you make on the tone of the site. I can see the reason for making it a memorial instead of a business operation but I still feel renewing it as it was is the best policy. The hope was that it would take down our economy along with our self-esteem and since they failed in the latter, I think it best to remind them of their failure in the former objective as well.
    It won’t be a cheap commercial site, it will be a center of the entire planet’s economic systems. That is quite a memorial.
    My “bullshit” was in reference to the world, not America. Sorry if you misunderstood that. I do appreciate the lecture on turnstile statistics on our nations parks, however. It was very moving. Irrelevant to my post, but moving.
    Mickey only gets 14 million? No wonder they were in trouble the last few years. Ask a person in Brazil, India, or Japan about Gettysburg and Disneyworld and see which one is most likely to be known and understood.
    I can’t argue with your intimidating knowlege of attendance totals but I will argue that a prosperous international business site is exactly what the terrorists don’t want to see.
    As you are of the Leftist variety I understand your distrust of anything to do with business but our economy and its influence are what threatens other nations (including Iran, Canada and France) and it was our economy they were trying to destroy. I still believe a commercially successful operation is among the best choices.
    The politically minded can and will twist the message of a memorial but you can’t argue with a successful business and what it gives to the greater society. Well, you can, no doubt.

  • Ptolemy

    That is a fair argument you make on the tone of the site. I can see the reason for making it a memorial instead of a business operation but I still feel renewing it as it was is the best policy. The hope was that it would take down our economy along with our self-esteem and since they failed in the latter, I think it best to remind them of their failure in the former objective as well.
    It won’t be a cheap commercial site, it will be a center of the entire planet’s economic systems. That is quite a memorial.
    My “bullshit” was in reference to the world, not America. Sorry if you misunderstood that. I do appreciate the lecture on turnstile statistics on our nations parks, however. It was very moving. Irrelevant to my post, but moving.
    Mickey only gets 14 million? No wonder they were in trouble the last few years. Ask a person in Brazil, India, or Japan about Gettysburg and Disneyworld and see which one is most likely to be known and understood.
    I can’t argue with your intimidating knowlege of attendance totals but I will argue that a prosperous international business site is exactly what the terrorists don’t want to see.
    As you are of the Leftist variety I understand your distrust of anything to do with business but our economy and its influence are what threatens other nations (including Iran, Canada and France) and it was our economy they were trying to destroy. I still believe a commercially successful operation is among the best choices.
    The politically minded can and will twist the message of a memorial but you can’t argue with a successful business and what it gives to the greater society. Well, you can, no doubt.

  • Ptolemy

    Sorry about the double.

  • http://www.hfienberg.com/kesher/ Yehudit

    “We should refocus attention on what matters most: remembering the human beings who were lost at ground zero.”
    I think Lincoln’s words quoted above are the best response:
    “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
    What matters most is NOT “remembering those who died at ground zero,” but going forward, so that they will not have died in vain. I’m glad Donald Trump is getting involved.