Sunday, June 22, 2014

An Answer to the Federal Appeals Court: Why the 9/11 "Cross" is Offensive

An article published yesterday on Fox News' website chronicled the current appeal on a case that was submitted by American Atheists in 2011 and was subsequently thrown out which concerned the right of the now infamous "cross" that remained from the wreckage of the World Trade Center to reside at the National September 11th Memorial Museum. In this article, we were informed that an appeals judge has given the plaintiffs until July 14th to submit legal briefings detailing as to how exactly the presentation of this cross was a "constitutional injury". 

(photo courtesy of Top Right News)

The question seemed easy enough to answer to Yours Truly, despite the controversy surrounding it. I thought since I had the afternoon free I might give a couple of the more obvious reasons that many of us find the inclusion of this piece of rubble in this museum worse than offensive -- reasons that the conservative media seems to conveniently forget. 

Namely, the presentation of the cross at the museum is an example of American credulity. It banners to every visitor who may come to see it that we live in a country that cannot tell the difference between the extraordinarily likely event of a cross-beam remaining intact after the demolition of a building that must have contained untold thousands of similar steel structures from divine artistic expression. It would be equally asinine to place a pancake bearing the face of Mother Mary behind a glass box in the same commemorative building. Legal and moral reasons aside, I am not a fan of advertising that kind of stupidity on a cultural level. If some people wish to think that this remarkably obvious coincidence is the work of the supernatural, by all means they may. But to symbolize it on a national level communicates openly (and wrongfully) that all American citizens share in that kind of fideism. 

Secondly, the cross suggests to those who see it that the event is a Christian event -- as though it was a psychotic attack on Christianity as opposed to a secular country, or that the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Flight 93 were populated only by Christians instead of people of all kinds of religious and philosophical stripes. A cross-like shape remained in the rubble and Christians across the world rush to monopolize the grief on a tragedy that was the result of an attack on all varieties of Western idealism, not simply those obsessed with Christ. Beyond the fact that that kind of solipsism sends a message that is obviously separate from reality, I don't wish by my silence to endorse such an egotistic, amoral capitalism. As it would be impossible to accurately represent the faiths and philosophies of all the lives lost on that terrible day, the only fair response is to represent none of them. 

Thirdly, September 11th was the result of insane, dogmatic fervor. It was an event that, sans religion, would not have happened. To commemorate the slaughter of one religion's zeal with the icon of another equally destructive, detrimental faith seems to me to be a moral hypocrisy of the most nauseating kind. 

Finally (and perhaps most to the point), the National Memorial is in part funded by tax-payer money. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the idea of the separation of church and state as illuminated by the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom (penned by Jefferson and Madison) are excellent precedents supporting the idea that the American citizen does not have to support any one else's ideology in the public square, and that Congress and the United States Government is forbidden from expressing support for any particular faith. If Congress or specific government agencies have allotted money to the National September 11th Memorial Museum in any amount, then they are supposed to have the full faith and trust of the American citizenry that it has been used for an equally representative platform. Much as it is a "Constitutional injury" for my money to fund the proliferation of Christian ideologies and junk science in public schools, so it is the same injury for said money to support the proliferation of Christian icons in a national memorial.  

This is the kind of reasoning that comes from simple understanding of First Amendment rights and an objective view on the subject at large. I have heard many arguments to the contrary but none that have convinced me on these specific criteria that, much less that the cross in the museum would be offensive, but that it would be remotely a good idea on an otherwise even playing field. The sooner that the conservative Right and the Christian fundamentalists in this country realize that their religion is just fine in their private lives and not to be blazoned as a symbol of a tragedy for which we all, and not just Christians, share, the sooner we will reach something of the level of religious sterility for which the Founding Fathers so strenuously fought. Those who still have qualms about that last thought would do well to send their objections to Article 11 of the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli and get back to me.    

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