Thursday, April 03, 2008

When Jingoes Legislate Art

[Cross-posted at Firedoglake.]

There’s been an ongoing debate in Arizona about the state’s 9/11 memorial, which is in fact a striking conceptual piece of art that tries to encompass the broad range of public reactions, and feelings, about the 2001 terrorist attacks, and the events surrounding them.

Unsurprisingly, the problem is less with the memorial itself than with the Republican jingoes who can’t abide honesty or truth in public art. They want the memorial to be all about good ole American patriotism, and are accusing its designers of being unpatriotic, unAmerican, and just plain ungood.

Yesterday, the Republicans in the Arizona Legislature passed a resolution to remove the elements deemed insufficiently patriotic:
Known as Moving Memories, the memorial at Wesley Bolin Plaza was unveiled to widespread acclaim on the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

Built with $500,000 in private donations, its sweeping design of concrete and steel includes rubble from the World Trade Center and Pentagon and dust from the Pennsylvania field where the final hijacked plane crashed. Sunlight passes through 54 inscriptions laser-cut into the memorial’s cylindrical face, making the phrases visible on the concrete below.

But the memorial soon found itself the target of criticism by those who considered some of its inscriptions anti-military, unpatriotic or simply inane. GOP gubernatorial candidate Len Munsil made the memorial a centerpiece of his candidacy against Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano, who had praised the structure as "impressive and meaningful."

There was talk of knocking down the memorial, covering it over or building anew. In the months since, emotions have cooled little. "The memorial as it now stands shows how far the roots of moral relativism have now spread," Rep. Bob Stump, a Peoria Republican, said Wednesday.
We’re all somewhat familiar with this kind of nonsense. After all, it was just three years ago that Michelle Malkin was frothing about another 9/11 memorial that she and the other wingnuts had decided was part of a secret Islamist conspiracy to instill Muslim values in America.

What the wingnuts apparently can’t handle is any reflection of the complexity of American life, manifested in our widely varying responses to the attacks — as well as the many failures in our national-security apparatus before and after them. The only views they evidently can stand to have displayed on the memorial are those that either express support for the American military and the Bush administration, or express hatred of brown-skinned foreigners.

These are the lines the Arizona jingoes want removed:
• "Must bomb back"
• "05 19 03 Avtar Singh Cheira, a Sikh, shot in Phoenix"
• "Foreign-born Americans afraid"
• "09 15 01 Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh, murdered in Mesa"
• "Middle East violence motivates attacks in US"
• "FBI agent issues July 2001 warning in ‘Phoenix Memo’ "
• "06 03 02 Congress questions why CIA & FBI didn’t prevent attacks"
• "Fear of foreigners"
• "Feeling of invincibility lost"
• "03 13 02 New Afghan leader elected"
• "You don’t win battles of terrorism with more battles"
• "Violent acts leading US to war 05 07 1915, 12 07 1941, 08 04 1964 & 09 11 2001"
Now, you can argue all you like about the truthfulness or accuracy or validity of these views — but it’s incontestable that the breadth of American opinion did include them. Which is what the memorial is supposed to be about. That’s what gives it its power.

If Arizona Republicans want to have their own memorial, perhaps they can finance it themselves and erect it on their own. I’d suggest a statue of John McCain, singing "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran."

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