Nationalism has always arrogated to itself a hallowing power, and the sanctification of Ground Zero is the natural expression of the memory of a nation. But this is a secular sanctity. I see no justification for establishing a mosque, a church, or a synagogue at Ground Zero, even though Muslims, Christians, and Jews died there. (Irreligious people also died there.) Yet nobody is proposing to establish a mosque at Ground Zero. Sacralization is an act of demarcation: its force is owed to its precision. Outside the line is outside the line. Park Place is outside the line, in the “profane” realm. Or has the right finally found a penumbra in which it can believe? On September 13, 2001, a construction worker at Ground Zero discovered two large steel beams in the shape of a cross. Given the design of the towers, the likelihood of such perpendicularity was high—when I visited the unimaginable place a short while later there were smoldering right angles everywhere—but the discovery of this cross was deemed a miracle, and it was raised on a concrete base, and there was talk of incorporating it into the memorial at the site. (It now stands a block away, at a church on Barclay Street.) I was always discomfited by the sight of it. Christianity was not attacked on September 11. America was attacked. They are not the same thing. The image of the Ground Zero cross now appears in TV ads excoriating the “Ground Zero mosque.” The people behind those ads do not deplore a religious war, they welcome one.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Leon Wieseltier on the Cordoba Center
Very moving essay: