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offices included an image of a woman flashing a victory sign after voting in the recent Iraqi elections; that image has been replaced by a photo of Lyndon B. Johnson and the Rev.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.