Saturday, March 28, 2009

Freedom As "Ideological Symbolism"

Remember shortly after 9/11? Most of the country came together, willing to wave an American flag, talking freedom. People were not willing to simply hang up the American way of life. They were interested in seeing those who brought this horror onto American soil found and brought to justice. And it was a popular thing for the replacement tower to be named "Freedom Tower." It sounded good... it sounded right. Because it was America's way of saying, "We stand for freedom and we won't back down." 

Eight years later, we've backed down. After all, giving the tower a name like "Freedom Tower" is controversial. After all, tenants "might balk at a name with such potent ideological symbolism." Freedom is supposed to be the foundation for American political thought and deed. So, I suppose it's fair to say that "freedom" is American political ideology. But freedom is FREEDOM. Without it, what do you have? Isn't the fact that American has stood for freedom for centuries something to be proud of? Since when are we ashamed of it? Or worried that people might shy away from renting space in a building aptly named for it? 

But now the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is calling the tower "One World Trade Center" to market leases in the building. The New York Times is downplaying this change, saying that "people will call this building whatever they like. The Sears Tower is about to be renamed The Willis Tower after a British insurance company. Try that on a Chicago cabbie and see where you end up." But it's more than that. A change from the name of "Freedom" to the name of "One World" is a very big change. And one that Americans shouldn't be taking lightly.

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