Sunday, June 12, 2005

Now Who's Playing Politics, Again?

I don't know how many of you have heard about this, but there has been a bit of an uproar over the preliminary plans for the International Freedom Center, which is to be part of the Ground Zero memorial. A lot of people (mostly it seems from the Right), including the sister of the fallen pilot of Flight 77 Debra Burlingame, have argued that the memorial has been apparently hijacked by "blame America first" left-wing groups. As I said, the right-wingers are all over this. Here what the IFC site says the mission is:


The International Freedom Center – a multi-dimensional cultural institution combining history, education and engagement – will be an integral part of humanity’s response to September 11. Rising from the hallowed ground of the World Trade Center site, it will serve as the complement, and its building as the gateway, to the World Trade Center Memorial, playing a leading role in the Memorial’s mission to “strengthen our resolve to preserve freedom, and inspire an end to hatred, ignorance, and intolerance.” •

The Center will include three major cultural components:

Museum Exhibition Spaces: telling freedom's story, inspiring visitors to appreciate it on a personal level by looking at the countless individual women and men around the world who have made a difference. Spurred by hundreds of hours of consultations with nearly 100 scholars, museum experts and leading thinkers, the museum will include a “Freedom Walk” – offering visitors a multimedia collage of some of freedom’s most inspiring moments, interwoven with deeply moving aunequaledled views of the Memorial – as well as a set of galleries offering compelling and thought-provoking treatments of great freedom issues and stories from around the world, throughout the ages and up to the moment. Temporary exhibits will draw on other historic sifreedom museumsums around the world. Educational and Cultural Center: sponsoring an extensive array of lectures, symposia, debates, films and other events in its theaters and public halls that will nurture a global conversation on freedom in our world today. Much of the Center’s evening programming will draw on offerings from members of a university consortium being assembled by the Center and its partner the Aspen Institute.

Universities that have already agreed to participate include the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Cape Town; New York, Columbia and the New School Universities and the City University of New York; and Princeton and Yale Universities. Another key source of evening programming will be a partnership between the Center and the Tribeca Film Festival and its year-round counterpart the Tribeca Film Institute. The Center’s public spaces will also provide a venue for important community and civic events. Civic Engagement Network: connecting visitors with opportunities to act freedom's serviceice in their own communities and around the world. Opportunities for service will be provided on site, and through a virtual network, and will run the gamut of visitor interests, from symbolic gestures to life-changing commitments. Leading NGOs will be offered outposts at the Center to reach out to its visitors. A service advisory board now includes 35 of the leading bi-partisan and non-partisan experts on service and civic engagement from across the nation; the group will soon expand to be international in scope. "

It doesn't seem that harmless to me. I think what there trying to do, besides the most important aspect (remembering the sacrifice of 9/11), is focus on the larger idea of our freedom. The opponents of the memorial argue that a lot of left-of-center scholars are on the advisory panel. And? The IFC says there'll a broad range of voices from all sides of the political spectrum. I do have a few concerns. I do not want this to really turn out to be a "Guilt Museum," as it has been called. I don't want to lose the primary focus of the memorial, that is 9/11. We probably should keep it rather simple, and focus mainly on 9/11. However, this memorial is still in development, and I have no real reason to question the motives of the founders, despite some of their anti-war sentiments. It seems that the only ones playing politics here are the right-wing scandalmongers. Their problem it appears is not that the memorial is political, rather that it's not their politics. Big surprise.

P.S. It should be noted that this IFC memorial will not be larger than the larger 9/11 memorial. You'd think, in these times when America, the West, and democracy are under constant assault by our terrorist foes, that we can have a memorial that declares the history of America's victories over tyranny, and our history of liberating the whole world.

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