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MINIMIZING AMERICA AT GROUND ZERO

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By mmguestblogger  •  August 22, 2005 06:23 PM

Michelle has written before about plans to turn the 9/11 memorial in New York City at Ground Zero into an International Freedom Center that would focus on threats to freedom throughout history and around to world instead of a tribute and memorial to those who died on 9/11. She blogged about it here and wrote a column about it here. That was in June, but the plans for the Center continue. And they are indeed appalling.

First, as the New York Daily News reported, the overarching idea is to minimize America .

“Don’t feature America first,” the IFC has been advised by the consortium of 14 “museums of conscience” that quietly has been consulting with the Freedom Center for the past two years over plans for the hallowed site. “Think internationally, where America is one of the many nations of the world.”

Yup, you wouldn’t want to talk about America there at Ground Zero, now would you?

Apparently, the IFC is is receiving advice and inspiration from the International Coalition of Historic Site Museums of Conscience, a group of museums that are devoted to portraying man’s inhumanity to man. They want the IFC to continue in this tradition.

Located in nine countries on five continents, the coalition museums chronicle apartheid in South Africa, slavery in Senegal, torture in Argentina, racism in the South and internment of Japanese-Americans in California, along with other historical horrors.

“No one in the civilized world would ever defend what happened on 9/11,” said Sarwar Ali, the coalition’s chairman and a trustee of the Liberation War Museum in Bangladesh.

“But what happened after 9/11 – with restrictions placed on human rights and the cycle of revenge and the allegations of human rights abuses in prisons – must also be explored,” Ali said in a call from London.

Coalition members gathered for their annual conference at a Holocaust site in the Czech Republic in July 2004 – and assailed the United States for “reasserting its power in an arrogant way,” the conference report shows.

Among its suggestions for the place where the United States was attacked and nearly 3,000 innocents massacred: “The Freedom Center must signal its openness to contrary ideas.”

Got that? The museum commemorating the murders on 9/11 must also depict the United States as a violator of human rights around the world. Apparently, this is the true context in which these museum coalition members view 9/11. Here are some of the concerns that the coalition has about the United States.

- “It seems that whatever Americans want, Americans get!” the conference report states. “Is the definition of the ‘struggle for freedom’ simply defined by the victors, or also by those engaged in ongoing struggles? Will Americans really create a balanced vision of freedom?”

– “The WTC was attacked because it was a symbol of power and influence. In building the Freedom Tower, the U.S. reasserts its power in an arrogant way: Does this mean the U.S. will not only build the biggest building, but also define freedom for the world?”

As the New York Daily News points out in an editorial, the IFC may end up rejecting all this “inspiration.” The administrators of the IFC and Governor Pataki need to make it clear what they think the purpose of this memorial really should be. It is clear that the families of those killed at the World Trade Center are not impressed with what they’re hearing.

I can’t think of a greater insult than to invite museums from other countries of the world to come and exploit what should be America’s memorial,” said Jack Lynch, who helped carry the body of his firefighter son Michael, 30, out of the rubble.

“If you’re going to explore slavery, the Holocaust or women’s rights, you should do it at Chelsea Piers or on the East River waterfront – anywhere but Ground Zero,” said Debra Burlingame, whose brother Charles, 51, was the pilot of the plane that crashed into the Pentagon.

“After all, it was not slavery that caused the terrorists to attack us,” said Burlingame, who has led the fight to bar the IFC.

I’m sure that there will be a public outcry once people read about these ideas for the memorial. And, we can hope that the politicians will respond and make sure that Ground Zero does not turn into a place where America is minimized.

UPDATE: If this story has you steamed, check out the Take Back the Memorial site to find out more and see what you can do.

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