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Tragedy Isn't Pretty
Not even if somebody gives it a zen-mall makeover. Maureen Dowd is right-on in her criticism of the WTC memorial, if her descriptions of it are accurate:

...pretty.

Pretty and soothing.

Soothing and smooth.

Smooth and light.

Light and watery.

The eight designs for a memorial at ground zero, gleaming with hanging candles and translucent tubes and reflecting pools and the smiling faces of those killed on 9/11, aim to transcend. And they succeed.

They transcend terror. They have the banality of no evil. They represent the triumph of atmosphere over atrocity, mood over meaning. The designs are more concerned with the play of light on water than the play of darkness on life.

They have taken the heaviest event in modern American history and made the lightest memorials.

...The ugliness of Al Qaeda's vicious blow to America is obscured by these prettified designs, which look oddly like spas or fancy malls or aromatherapy centers. It's easy to visualize toned women with yoga mats strolling through these New Age pavilions filled with waterfalls and floating trees and sunken gardens and suspended votives. Mass murder dulled by architectural Musak.

The designs are reflections of our psychobabble culture, exuding that horrible and impossible concept, closure. Our grief and anger have been sentimentalized and stripped of a larger historical and moral purpose.

Even the names of the models sound like books by Deepak Chopra and Marianne Williamson: "Garden of Lights," "Inversion of Light," "Votives in Suspension," "Suspending Memory," "Reflecting Absence," "Passages of Light: The Memorial Cloud." All ambient light and transient emotion nothing raw or harsh or rough on which the heart and mind can collide.

The spontaneous memorials that sprang up right after 9/11, both near ground zero and at police and fire stations around the city, had more power and raw passion. What's missing from the designs is some trace of what actually happened on this ground. Why not return that twisted metal skeleton cross to the site, the one that made the World Trade Center ruins such a chilling and indelible memory for the thousands of Americans who flocked to ground zero in the months after the attack?

She's got a point.

Posted by aalkon at December 1, 2003 8:00 AM

Comments

Hey, Maureen --

You can't spell "dowdy" without D-O-W-D. I'd much rather see a toned women strolling through New Age pavilions than a fat and cranky chunko like you waddling her musty NYC haunches over to The Kiev for yet another vat of borsch. Wanna give Osama the finger? Forget the agony and ecstasy of your beloved skeleton cross (the faintly religious overtone is offensive, thank you). Make the former WTC site one big sexy, sweaty aerobics studio filled with toned women bouncing up and down in their red, white and blue butt thongs. "Soothing and smooth" indeed!

Posted by: Lena Liberty at December 1, 2003 10:54 PM