The International Freedom Center just released its last-gasp effort to stay at the World Trade Center over the objections of family members, fire fighters, police, and folks like me. Some reaction:
* The most important and most ironic: If the IFC had the conviction of its principles of freedom, it would have rejected the demands of Gov. Pataki and the LMDC to build the inoffensive center as an offense to free speech. It is impossible to create the inoffensive, especially in this age of offense and especially about such an explosive cluster of subjects. The IFC should have said thanks but no thanks and withdrawn to build its center elsewhere, as all those opposed to its presence at the World Trade Center have urged. But by trying to write a compromise proposal, it only compromises its stand. I don’t blame them for the position they’re in; I blame Pataki et al. But I do blame them for staying in that position.
* The IFC assumes a link between the struggle for freedom and the deaths that day. Says the IFC:
It will tangibly link September 11 and the lives of its victims
to humanity’s greatest idea: freedom.
But what is that link? Nothing about September 11th was about liberating people. The people who were killed that day were free. They were not struggling to be free. The murderers, too, were free and exploited that freedom to commit this act. Of course, I support the celebration of freedom; who but a tyrant or a terrorist would not? But the struggle here is not against or for freedom. The struggle here is for civilization against extremism, fanaticism, and criminality. So make your center, elsewhere, about terrorism, then. Have your seminars and events and debates about extremism. Study religious fanaticism. This actually is not about freedom.
* They keep drawing parallels to a Gettysburg museum, with copious quotes from its president. I don’t buy it. Gettysburg has the benefit of a century’s perspective. September 11th was only four years ago. It is way too soon and too hubristic to believe that we know what it means or can display that.
* They want to open the museum with reaction to the event from elsewhere in the world. I’m not fully sure why that strikes me as so discordant, but it does. Does it assume that we need to validation of world opinion to think what we think? Does it paint us in the position of victim? Does it leave unsaid the sick truth that there were those elsewhere in the world who celebrated September 11th?
The IFC says that as soon as people come to the center, they will…
…learn that Canada declared a national day of mourning and that 100,000 people gathered at a service in Ottawa; that in Berlin the crowd numbered 200,000; that at a soccer match in Tehran…
Well, will they also learn how Canada and Germany treated the U.S. during the Iraq war and how Iran subjugates its own people and, potentially, threatens the world with nuclear weapons? What is the UNesque agenda?
* The IFC promises:
Next to the Memorial, with views overlooking the entire site, the International Freedom Center will help bring hope and resolve to a place of tragedy and grief.
How? Aren’t hope and grief essentally personal? And the only true resolve I see will be victory over the terrorists.
* If you’re going to open a study center, don’t study us. Study terror.
* If you’re going to celebrate our freedom, I can think of no better way than to celebrate the lives of the heroes and innocents of that day, not abstractions about them. So this much I agree with:
The film will show how the World Trade Center attracted people from all over the globe to a place in which national and cultural differences were subsumed in trade and commerce–how Lower Manhattan has, in essence, always been an international freedom center, drawing people to a dream of free and better lives.
* On the “freedom walk,” visitors will see exhibits about…
…the signing of the Declaration of Independence; Gandhi leading the Salt March; Martin Luther King, Jr. writing his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”; one man’s confrontation with tanks near Tiananmen Square; the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Some have already questioned why these outside events and the struggle for civil rights in this country are here. I will also ask: What about current struggles for freedom? What about the struggle of Arab lands and China for democracy? What about the tyranny of terrorism from Palestinian terrorism? What about the genocides in Africa? You want to talk struggles for freedom, then let’s talk Saudi Arabia and move on from there.
The IFC says: “The Walk will not attempt to offer a comprehensive survey of freedom.” Ah, but every decision about what is to be included and not included shows a bias, a prejudice, a chance to offend.
The IFC tries to brush that aside by promising that “emphasis will be placed upon stories and ideas that are positive, inspirational, and educational.” What does that mean?
Educational? Last night, I was helping my son study for a history test today and one of the subjects was the Crusades. You know, I said, that has a lot to do with September 11th (a day my children know all too much about). He looked at me as if there were impossible or insane. I tried to explain the link and I acknowledged that, yes, it should be impossible and it is insane.
Are you going to teach about the Crusades? Or is that still too sensitive?
* The IFC, the Aspen Institute, and various universities will hold events in Freedom Hall:
Freedom Hall will also offer the public an array of evening lectures, symposia, discussions, and special events that will be designed to help people engage more thoroughly with the IFC’s exhibits. This programming is being crafted in response to the LMDC’s directive that all cultural institutions at Ground Zero “conduct forums drawing from cultural and academic resources in the region, building an identity for the World Trade Center site as a place of inquiry and discussion.” … The programming will be overseen by the IFC’s staff and Board working with The Aspen Institute and the members of the consortium. It will be presented with civility and respect–the very values the IFC hopes to promote in the wider community–and in keeping with the solemnity of the Ground Zero ite.
OK, so when Ward Churchill is invited by one of the universities to speak here, what do you do? Do you put him on a black list? How consistent with your principles is that? And that, ladies and gentlemen, is precisely the no-win position you are demanding to be in. And I’m shocked that these universities agreed to join in a site where they will have government-imposed restrictions on what they say and how they can say it. That just won’t work.
* I find it unseemly and exploitive that they went off and found their own family members of the dead to feud with the family members who have objected to this center.
* I find it to be a damning indication of their lack of openness that the IFC did not attach or address any of the concerns or complaints issued by other families of 9/11’s heroes and innocents, by other citizens, and by two of New York’s three daily papers.
Once again, I’ll emphasize that I do not object to anyone building a freedom center to explain and explore the issues this center proposes. But not atop the memorial to the dead of September 11th. Not here. Not now.
The IFC should have had the good sense and decency and firm principle to pull out. It has not. Now the politicians who created this difficult situation are the ones who must end this. Do not build it. Not here.
: One of my many prior posts on this here.