The New York Times is concerned.
This is usually a good sign. The Times doesn’t get concerned unless conservatives are doing something they don’t much like. In this case, the Times is concerned that the “version” of 9/11 that will be featured at the Ground Zero Memorial won’t remember the fallen and their “rich, complex and politically and culturally divided” lives. Instead, it will be a remembrance of America’s tragedy and the Americans who died there.
This just simply won’t do. Where’s the cultural sensitivity? Where’s the balance? What, no Abu Ghraib?
Gov. George Pataki’s decision to side with increasingly vocal critics of the cultural plans for the World Trade Center site is not surprising, but it is alarming. The governor has been deeply and rightly sensitive to the concerns of the families of the victims of 9/11. Like all of us, he honors their loss and their grief. But by bowing to some of the survivors’ growing hostility to any version of 9/11 except their own, Mr. Pataki is doing a disservice to history and to the very idea of freedom.
The protesters have objected to the proposed International Freedom Center, which they fear might someday sponsor discussions that cast America in a negative light, and to the Drawing Center, one of the cultural institutions invited to move to ground zero, which has displayed art that appears to criticize the Bush administration and the war in Iraq.
Is there an “alternate version” of 9/11 of which I’m unaware? Isn’t that the day when 19 Islamic terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon and murdered nearly 3000 Americans? In the universe inhabited by the New York Times, the answer is no:
What those lives stand for now is American freedom, in its full implication and all its contradictions. That is what has gone missing in the governor’s remarks, in which he demanded that the cultural organizations promise never to display art that might “denigrate” the victims of 9/11 or America in general. Mr. Pataki has accepted at face value the tenor of the protests at ground zero, which are, frankly, a call for censorship, indeed for censorship in advance – for political oversight of an artistic process that has only begun to evolve.
It is no contradiction to hope that ground zero will become a place that commemorates death and reaffirms life at the same time. But it will be the worst of bad beginnings to turn it into a place where only grief is acceptable, where the vital impulses represented by the arts are handcuffed in the name of freedom.
Asking that people respect the memories of the dead by not turning the Memorial into a political statement that would denigrate America would, just about anywhere else in this country, be a no brainer. Evidently, it’s too much to ask of the New York Times. And by raising the usual leftist canards regarding “censorship” (how about common decency?) whenever someone objects to anything a liberal does, is par for the course.
By supporting the idea that highlighting America’s sins at a memorial to honor the butchering of innocents, the New York Times proves that it isn’t an “alternate version” of events that’s at stake here – it’s the “alternate universe” the Times inhabits when it comes to anything that smacks of honoring America.