Sunday, November 8, 2009

Context

So the Navy's newest battleship, the USS New York, has a bow built from steel salvaged from Ground Zero. According to naval officials, this symbolizes the fact that the United States will always persevere.

Does it, though? To me, that symbolizes more than perseverance. It symbolizes aggression. So much more than "We Shall Overcome," it seems to tread near the bounds of "An Eye for an Eye." The bow of the ship, the sharpest, most intimidating part of the ship, the part that cuts through the air and casts a long shadow over any unlucky smaller vessels that get in the way, is the part that is made from the once-office building steel. This does not, to me, connect in any way to the World Trade Center and what happened in 2001. It connects to what happened after, most definitely, but when I think of the steel from the World Trade Center, the actual metal that held up the buildings when they were standing, I don't think of what happened after. I think of what it was before, and I get uncomfortable. The people who died in the towers on that day were not, as a group, associated with the military. They were largely white collar office workers who were not prepared to be martyrs or symbols. They were victims of overwhelming hatred and violence, and to associate the memory of that terrible day with our own military might just seems wrong in some way.

To take the steel from what was an office building that became the site of a terrible, world-shattering tragedy and reuse it to create a memorial is a beautiful idea. It symbolizes rebirth and gives the phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes kind of imagery that we as a still hurting society need. But to put it on a battleship? That says something entirely different, and not altogether benign.


9 comments:

Max Nova said...

I would also say that if the steel should go anywhere, it should probably go to whatever finally gets rebuilt on the site.

Ozkirbas said...

I thought it'd be cool if it went to building a park. You could even have a plaque somewhere that said, "All metals used to build the park were salvaged from the Twin Towers, which fell on September 11th, 2001" or something similar. Seems like it'd be a more appropriate form of poetic justice than some idea taken out of Mel Gibson's "The Patriot"

Stephen said...

Hey, why not all of the above?

B.Graham said...

They actually are using more of the steel for a different memorial, likely a more appropriate one. But the battleship still makes me uneasy.

Jstone said...

if I recall they intend (or at least the families of the victims who are in a group trying to get a memorial together) to put that like iconic piece of wreckage that was all over the papers into a memorial on the site whenever they decide to you know...build...something.
I'd just like to say that I'm happy someone has finally done something with the World Trade Center, even if it is kind of weird.

Damo said...

B, thanks for this. I completely agree. I felt a chill down my spine when I first saw it.

How about the Orwellian banner hanging from it during the unveiling ceremony:

"NEVER FORGET"

Never forget what? That 3000 people died on that day, or that over 6000 troops and tens of thousands of innocent civilians have died since in a cat and mouse game that hasn't shown any quantifiable return on our investment.

Now they want 40,000 more troops and suddenly we're riding the World Trade Center across the ocean with more of our sons and daughters to blow shit up and get shot at. Awesome.

Am I missing something?

Anonymous said...

There is something you should be clear on. The USS New York is not a Battleship or a very effective warship. It is what is called an "amphibious transport dock". It transports infantry, supplies, helicopters, and whatnot around. They do not strike fear in any competent military, rather they are seen as targets of opportunity.

In this role the ship serves as a fitting memorial. Not for citizens who parks and monuments are made, rather to enemies current and future. To make it clear that no matter how hard the nation is hit, America will rebuild and come after whomever had the poor thinking disturb it.

B.Graham said...

@Anonymous: the whole idea of rebuilding with our enemies, rather than our citizens, in mind is what makes me uncomfortable. The way you described it does make it sound better than I originally perceived, but to me it's still punching the air with the wounded arm instead of trying to heal it from within. I understand that reacting to violence with violence or military might can't be avoided, but I just wish the victims of that terrible day could be remembered in a less aggressive, more productive way.

Lowballing said...

BTW Anon was me... my office sort of gets pissy when I am signed into google.