I wasn’t able to blog yesterday. I grew up in New York and the greatest gift my parents ever gave me was to make me feel like the citizen of the world. My dad used to love to go to the Untied Nations to hear the African diplomats speak. My mom and I trekked all over the five boroughs for free concerts and events. For a long time, I temped for Olympia & York, a firm that built the World Financial Center, three Cesar Pelli-designed skyscrapers across from what was then the World Trade Center. I used to run around the WTC like it was a playground. Import-export businesses, brokerage firms, medical offices, government offices, international trade commissions, obscure, private firms making really good money. The legacy of WTC was a uniquely American hodge podge: immigrants and bridge and tunnel folks cheek to jowl alongside GED hustlers and Ivy League alums.
Perhaps it was inevitable that 9-11 would be turned into a political football. Demonstrations of good will and unity are chimeras, rites that necessarily disappear. But the disappearance of those rites belie an important fact. Crises only bring existing feelings to the surface. Our national unity hasn’t disappeared because we don’t drive courteously any longer or display American flags all the time. If you believe that unity is that fragile, has to be nursed that tenderly, perhaps you don’t believe in unity at all.
All that aside, I wasn’t prepared to see 9-11 morph into the craziness of the MIA-POW Vietnam movement. It says something that people believe so intensely in conspiracies when our society is incessantly chattering – gossip and leaks, all day long. Clinging to logical, highly improbable events, unable to tolerate ambiguities or unanswered questions, some are creating a new orthodoxy that they seem to want to enforce in a HUAC/McCarthy vein.
The debate over the Cordoba House, the proposed Islamic center modelled on the 92nd Street YMHA, is unbearable. Turning 9-11 into some permanent sacred site in my home town, a living, breathing, constantly changing city of immigrants. The phony arguments that they can build a mosque but just not there. What bull!@#. Especially for folks many of whom believe that private property is akin to a blessed sacrament.
It’s not a proposed mosque. It’s a community center. The proposed site is not at Ground Zero. And even if it were …
The lying and the word games whip up people who can’t, won’t, or refuse to think about whether what they’re being told makes sense. America’s standing in the world is being dismantled every time rendition and torture are justified and when we do things like this.
Rest in peace.