There was a moment after 9/11 when almost all Americans realized what could be lost to an enemy intent on destroying our people and our institutions. As time has passed, so too has much of this sentiment. Americans may be patriotic, but patriotism is generally not in the forefront of their thinking. There are, however, some Americans who consider any form of patriotic expression jingoism or misguided public sentiment.
One recent example comes to mind. The spokesmen for the 9/11 Memorial Museum have been trying to subdue American patriotism and resilience after the 2001 terrorist attack. According to a recent report, officials at the museum tried to bury the by now famous photograph of three firemen raising the stars and stripes over the rubble at Ground Zero. The reason given is that it is too “rah-rah America.”
A recently published book quotes the museum’s creative director as saying he prefers material that is not “so vigilantly” and “vehemently” American. Instead of featuring the photo of the “firemen and the flag” he insists on three other photos that “undercut the myth of ‘one iconic moment.’”
As I see it, this is yet another moment when the agnostics about American institutions express their skepticism. Frankly there isn’t anything about which to be skeptical. American institutions have their flaws admittedly, but they are still the most resilient ever created. What is evident is that terrorists thought of the Twin Towers as an American symbol. It embodied in bricks and mortar: freedom, liberty and triumph.
It would seem that officials at the museum succumbed to the hordes of politically correct supporters. And it is not the first time. The International Freedom Center was removed from Ground Zero after an attempt was made to put the 9/11 attack into a “broad context,” i.e. a potential anti-U.S. debate on “the meaning of freedom.” Of course, U.S. detractors are relentless; the campaign against “the firefighters and flag” photo is merely the next chapter in a continuing campaign. If the firefighter photo is “too simple,” as the creative director noted, it is really too direct, too accessible, too patriotic. (All the “toos” being valuable amplification.)
For those intent on complicating an attack that killed 3000 Americans, there cannot be sympathy. There isn’t an explanation that can whitewash the destruction by haters of the U.S. motivated by an extreme Muslim ideology and their distaste for everything America stands.
Symbols do matter. It is unfortunate that museum officials do not seem to understand that contention. They are seemingly caught in the web of left wing ideological bias that contends the U.S. is wrong or partially wrong or largely responsible for attacks launched against it.
When Americans choose to wave their flag as a sign of belief in the nation detractors contend that is “rah-rah,” yellow journalism with the flag representing tocsin in the air. How sad that the officials vouchsafed the authority to determine the organization of this Ground Zero museum could be so myopic and so driven apparently by their ideological views.
Herbert London is President of the London Center for Policy Research, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America). You can read all of Herb London’s commentaries at www.londoncenter.org
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