Thursday, July 3, 2014

Land of the free

To get into the 9/11 Memorial Museum, you have to pass through a world-class security arrangement—a conveyor belt for shoes, belt buckles, cell phones; a three-second hands-above-your-head body scan—overseen by a notably grim private-security corps. “Stand there!” uniformed guards shout at those in line moseying ahead. “Don’t advance.” A terrorist planning to commit an atrocity at a museum devoted to the horrors of terrorist atrocities might seem unduly biddable to his enemy’s purpose, but then perhaps the security apparatus is itself a museum installation. At the other end, as you exit, toward West Street, another uniformed man is obliged to spend his day telling kids not to stand on the benches in the memorial park. “You, there! Down.” It doesn’t occur to the kids that standing on the granite plinths could be an offense, and they wonder at first whom the guard could be addressing. They look bewildered—you mean us?—and then descend. The idea that we celebrate the renewal of our freedom by deploying uniformed guards to prevent children from playing in an outdoor park is not just bizarre in itself but participates in a culture of fear that the rest of the city, having tested, long ago discarded...
...The "last night" letter of the terrorists is posted on a wall, but without any English translation. And so the deeper truth that religious fanaticism was the whole of their horrible cause--that, in the last-night letter God is cited a hundred and twenty-one times--is elided... They did not hate us for our freedom, they hated us for our lack of [their form of] faith... Their godliness does not exhaust the meanings of religion, any more than Pol Pot's atheism exhausts the meanings of doubt. But is is a central fact of the occasion, not illuminated by being ignored.
 Adam Gopnik: Visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum : The New Yorker

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