Politics & Policy

The International Freedom Center

Understanding P.C.

The plans for Ground Zero give prominent position to a cultural center dedicated to telling the story of man’s march toward freedom as an inspirational complement to the all-important memorial to those who died. But this International Freedom Center now faces challenge as a wholly inappropriate use of hallowed ground.

An organization representing families of some 9/11 victims yesterday joined calls for the Freedom Center to be removed as the primary gateway to, and a highly visible presence on, the 4 acres where stood the twin towers. The center, it is feared, is slated to become a platform for propaganda and for debating contentious issues that have, at best, a tenuous connection to the worst attack ever on American soil.

Daily News (New York), 6/21/05

[Through the kind offices of a friend at the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, I have gained access to some draft discussion plans for the proposed International Freedom Center. The following are extracts from a fictional document titled “Outline Design Specification, IFC–Provisional (incomplete).” I am glad to be able to share them with NRO readers.–J.D. ]

Main Entrance Lobby

Lobby centerpiece: Large statue, a group of semi-abstract human figures, suggesting a striving upwards, perhaps all with arms uplifted. The figures to include some identifiable features such as: slave manacles (broken), Native American feathered headdress, Muslim turban, campesino hat, etc.

Wall inscription: Sth. inspirational from non-slave-owning Founder or similar–Tom Paine?

Tape loop: “Welcome to the International Freedom Center, here on the site where once stood the World Trade Center. Here you will find a celebration of freedom, as the word has been understood–yet its spirit all too often violated or ignored–in the modern world. The tragedy of 9/11 was a blow against the freedom that we Americans claim to cherish. Yet our own attitude to freedom has been full of contradictions, as these exhibits will demonstrate…”

Hall of Economic Freedom

(Originally proposed thus. AR suggests change to: Hall of Freedom from Want.)

Centerpiece: Full-size statue appropriate to theme–labor hero? How about Joe Hill?

Big wall photo at left: Workers in 19C textile mill, pref. children. Continues to: Same size pics, coal mine, steel mill.

Big wall photo at right: Agricultural workers–ragged etc., pref. 19C. Continues to: Sth. similarly nonindustrial–whale fishing? (Check w. PETA for acceptability.)

Tape loop: “The first of all freedoms is the freedom from want. Yet our nation, which prides itself on its devotion to freedom, has been sadly backward in establishing this most basic of all freedoms. For all the abundance of our society, even today children go to bed hungry in the United States. Even today, working Americans cannot afford health insurance. Even today, while nations such as Cuba have achieved one hundred per cent literacy and full, free access to health care…”

Hall of Sexual and Reproductive Freedom

Centerpiece: Statue group, woman in business suit, briefcase, etc., two gay men holding hands–all striding confidently to radiant future. One of the 3 figures should be African American, doesn’t matter which. Can we do Hispanic in statuary? Without campesino hat? If not, oriental.

Big wall photo at left: Sth. from 19C showing haggard-looking woman with large brood of children outside hovel. Continues to: Gay-rights martyrs–von Katte, Wilde of course, Turing,… Big text block narrating Wilde case superimposed. Lesbian martyrs? Check w. CP.

Mural at right wall: Montage of great figures & episodes from history of sexual etc. freedom: Sade, Hirschfeld, Margaret Sanger, suffragettes, Kinsey, Roe vs. Wade justices (exc. White, Rehnquist), Stonewall demos etc. TB’s suggestion to work abortion doctor in can’t be done, wd. have to show instruments, best go with picture of clinic, pref. one in picturesque setting.

Tape loop: “For centuries American women were second-class citizens, lacking the right to vote, barred from the professions, expected to produce a baby a year until their frail bodies were worn out…”

Hall of Ethnic Freedom

Centerpiece: Large statue group–Manacled slaves, Trail of Tears, interned Japanese family, Chinese railroad coolie… May need to be half size, lotsa possible figures here.

Mural at left wall: Montage of images showing sufferings under racism: slavery, internment, lynching, Chicano farm workers, etc. Continues to: Protests–Wounded Knee, march on Montgomery,…

Mural at right wall: Heros portrayed–Chavez, MLK, etc. [Who for Japanese? Mineta? And KD suggests Vincent Chin–who he?]

Tape loop: “America’s past treatment of non-white citizens is a 300-year catalog of shame…”

Hall of Artistic Freedom

Centerpiece: Completely abstract culture vaguely suggesting uplift, aspiration.

Big wall photo at left: McCarthy hearings, 1st Amendment ironically superimposed. Continues to: Montage of blacklisted screenwriters etc., w. notes on subsequent fate, esp. suicides. (Can we get Giuliani in here?–the Brooklyn Museum business?)

Mural at right: Montage of controversial art–Jackson Pollock, “Piss Christ,” etc. (“Mapplethorpe prob. too strong”–AR.) “Angels in America” angel v. photogenic, says RT.

Tape loop: Still in disagreement here. RT wants pitch for PBS, JS insists reading of “Vagina monologues.” Shd. make decision soonest.

Hall of Religious Freedom

(NB1: Need great care here with religious symbols–MUST BE ALL SAME SIZE EXACTLY–else 1st Amendment issues.)

(NB2: Research on symbols not yet complete. Wiccans use pentacle inscribed in circle. For Hindus we shd. show one of less threatening gods, pref. many arms. Ch. of Scientology still not responding emails.)

Centerpiece: Good multi-culti statue group–turban, yarmulke, robed monk, etc.

Mural at left wall: Montage of images–religious buildings, worshippers, etc. Mosque prominent at center. Crowd scenes at Ganges festivals, Ka’aba, etc. Big head shot Dalai Lama. Continues to: Images of religious persecution–Salem burnings, Orange Riots, Holocaust. [Did RT have any luck finding images of Muslims beaten post-9/11? Wd. be real neat.]

Big photo at right: TBD.

Tape loop: “Following the unfortunate events of September 11, 2001, Muslims in America suffered suspicion and discrimination…”

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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