Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Symbolic Reset

Jeff Goldstein offers a post on the differences between intentional and unintentional symbols. It all started with two different stories, the Flight 93 Memorial and the British Burger King affront to Islam. From a purely intellectual angle, I enjoy when two different stories come together and spark an inquiry into a deeper level about the creation and meaning of symbols.

I offered in the comments about how the red crescent that describes the memorial grounds might have happened incidentally from a ground-up design that results in an unintended symbol forming within an artificial perspective. I can allow that the architect might never have considered his design explicitly from the elevated view implied by a model. From the ground, being within a crescent implies an enfolding and a demarcation of an area. That the ground so encircled is important should really go without saying but is the essence of a memorial.

I propose that I can create a different pitch for this design that would completely flip the sides of the complaint over the design:

In the land encompassed within this memorial, on the day of September 11, 2001, forty innocent lives on board Flight 93 came to an end. The deaths that occurred that day are not the reason for this memorial. The reason for this memorial is that it happened here.

Look about the land; it is empty as it was on that day. Grass and flowers and hills.

Look about the land; and imagine how much city could fill this space. Businesses and people and families.

Here, we commemorate those who chose to sacrifice their own lives to deny an enemy a weapon to strike at other innocents. We do not place a memorial here by our choice, we honor the choice already made.

No changes to the physical layout or structures or landscaping of the memorial. If the memorial had been described this way, that the memorial encompasses the area of destructiveness of the crash, then who do you think would be complaining that the area has been contained within a symbol of the Islamic faith?

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