War: May 2005 Archives


A gentle letter to the editor in today's New York City Newsday ends with this terse critique of the Republicans' evil politics of stem-cell research: "After all, we may differ as to when human life begins, but it certainly does not end at birth."

The full text follows.

President George W. Bush's antipathy to stem-cell research is a paradox wrapped in a conundrum. How can he have any respect for human life when his rush to war has resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent people?

To say nothing of his role as governor of Texas, where he executed numerous people. If Bush was truly concerned with the dignity of human life, his policies would be 180 degrees different in almost every category. After all, we may differ as to when human life begins, but it certainly does not end at birth.

Max Podrecca


Is anybody listening?

[image from nature.com]

Damien Davis Bear and Cover 2004 paper bears, desk [installation view]

How do we address the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki today, sixty years after the fact? The artist Hiroshi Sunairi, a native of Hiroshima, asked his students at New York University this question when he taught a course one year ago entitled "Peace by Piece." Some of their answers are currently assembled downtown in Tribeca's Debrosses Gallery.

My own most profound memory of atomic war is not the initial report of my country's annihilation of these two great cities but rather the routine, regulary-scheduled school rehearsals for an imagined defense against the oh-so-likely employment of these same bombs by a former ally suddenly turned satanic enemy. Unlike the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we were always able to come out from under our desks. To this day the people of the United States remain the only ones who have ever used these insane weapons against another.

Although he is far too young to have ever experienced the terror of The Bomb, or even the fear of its terror, Damien Davis manages to describe it in this simple, powerful installation. The small folded pieces of paper which appear at the bottom left in the picture are stray origami cranes folded by the students as part of the political mobilization of the project.

The exhibition will be accompanied by the artists and their professor on a flight to Hiroshima this summer, where it will be installed from August 13 through August 20 at the old Bank of Japan building, Hiroshima Branch, one of the few buildings which survived the 1945 bombing.

Pietro Gualdi Grand Plaza of Mexico City, Following the American Occupation of September 14, 1847 1847 oil on canvas [one of my all-time favorite public squares, for the richness of its life - once we left]

Over seventy years ago the Empire State Building was completed within thirteen months and yet we're still staring at a hole downtown.

As we approach the fourth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center we have no idea what's going to be built on the still-empty site. Every intended purpose and every proposed design has ended up being compromised or rejected for one reason or another.

Except for the shopping mall.

The cultural spaces are out; people are apparently terrified of the idea of sitting at a desk high above "ground Zero," so no one is talking about building the tall office buildings first included in the proposals; and no one knows where the little Greek church is going to be. The only projects now left on the table are something called the "Freedom Tower," which has just been put on hold once again (because of the name, it's a not-so-surprising augury for Bush's America) and the even more tenebrous "Freedom Museum." The current state of plans for a memorial to the events of September 11 is a mess, and it was ill-conceived from the start.

And as far as real freedom is concerned, forget about it; gotta stay off the grass and stay off the streets. Maybe watch it on TV.

So I have a modest proposal to resolve the problem. Actually it's not modest in its implications or in the scale of its ambitions, only in the simplicity of its utility and its physical design.

New Yorkers have been told that they have no right to assemble in large numbers in Central Park to party or address political grievances, and they have seen how impossible it is to find any alternative in a city without great open public spaces. I suggest that the site of the old World Trade Center be made a true monument to freedom by reserving every acre of its surface as a public square devoted solely to the enjoyment of the people and to their right of expression, whether in joy or in anger.

It absolutely must not be a lawn however, even if there were any way to ensure that great assemblies of people would not damage it. We need a great plaza worthy of a great city. Plazas welcome free assembly. Downtown, in the new World Trade Center there will be trading in ideas and grass is not part of the kit.

We would be perfectly happy with cut stone or the happy-sounding, gravel-like surface used almost universally in the grand parks of European towns and cities. Trees, yes. Include trees perhaps, but only around the perimeter. London Plane trees would do just fine. Above all, let us have light and air. Freedom thrives on it.

ADDENDUM: A year and a half ago, Barry did a post describing a provocative, minimalist WTC proposal from Ellsworth Kelly, although his concept involved the grass thing.

[image from Louisiana State Museum]

This page is an archive of entries in the War category from May 2005.

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