Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Ground Zip

So, one more piece of Daniel Liebeskind's breathtaking site plan for Ground Zero is history. As the Times reports, Governor Pataki barred the International Freedom Center from the "memorial quadrant" at Ground Zero, cowing to widespread criticism that "the sacred precinct of the memorial was no place for a lesson in geopolitics or social history, particularly when a separate memorial museum devoted solely to 9/11 was being planned entirely underground, within the trade center foundations."

After critics expressed concern this summer that there would be anti-American exhibitions and programs in the cultural building, Governor Pataki demanded an "absolute guarantee" that neither institution would do anything "to denigrate America."

Rather than respond directly, the Drawing Center began looking for alternative space. But Mr. Bernstein, the chairman of the Freedom Center, and Paula Grant Berry, its vice chairwoman, pledged in a July 6 letter to the development corporation that their museum would never "be used as a forum for denigrating the country we love."

Hillary, the article notes, is on board, as is former Mayor Guiliani. Nothing like celebrating our freedom by asserting prior restraint against anything with even the whiff of critical thought. Let's be clear, here: there's no indication who the arbiters might have been of what constituted "anti-American" material, but, to belabor a familiar point among the several hundred thousand true patriots this country still can boast, nothing is less anti-American than dissent, and nothing more anti-American than homogeneity of viewpoint, censorship of thought, and blind adherence to the governing majority's peculiar viewpoint.

This move furthers an already elaborate, multi-staged effort to pasteurize anything even half-way interesting out of the Ground Zero plan. Libeskind's stunning Freedom Tower has been rendered unrecognizable by a hack of an architect with the right political connections and the abject fear of another terrorist attack, Calavatra's transit hub has been rendered less striking in a clear surrender to the the same fear.

Note to the government: Hey folks, this means the terrorists have won; in the name of patriotism, and in quiet deference to the insurance lobby, your vision of patriotism makes us all look like a bunch of uninspired cowards. Granted, killing everything that moves in a country that had nothing to do with the attack in question showed off our fancy toys, but blowing lots of stuff up isn't evidence of a courageous government, especially when none of the prime actors actually know what it's like to serve their country on a battlefield (the soldiers, to be clear, show a degree of courage I suspect I will never see in myself; it's the government to which this charge is directed). Mr. President, Governor Pataki, Shiftless Pundit Giuliani, Senator Clinton (Craven--NY), how about you try thrusting forth your chin in the spirit of the freedom for which this country singularly stands -- freedom of thought.

The good news for the Bushies: apparently, there is one area in which supply-side thinking works. Supply-side jingoism.

It's going to take us decades to recover from the damage to national morale this administration has done. That is, if we ever do.

I'm sick with what's happened to Ground Zero. To be clear, it's not the aesthetics that matter; I've consistently stood for the courage to create something daring, something utterly memorable, and inasmuch as that necessarily will put some people off, I've been more than prepared to be on the artistically dissatisfied side. But this aesthetic pablum into which the site's many cooks have slowly reduced something that started out as inspired is profoundly offensive.

How is our freedom proclaimed forth to the world in an aesthetic of least-common denominator? Seriously -- somebody please explain.

UPDATE: I revised this moments after first posting to add a couple of digs at supporters of Pataki's decision and to clarify who, precisely, I consider to be craven, and who courageous.

UPDATE 2: Apparently Pataki, et al., still have their eyes on the ball. Retail Plan for Ground Zero is Unveiled. Sometimes the truth just hurts. But then retail is, sadly, America's dominant aesthetic. Or, in the words of Governor Pataki, "[W]e must move forward with our first priority, the creation of an inspiring memorial." Exactly.


Anonymous binky said...

Methinks the spam bots are attacking...

11:45 AM  

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