Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Is the Vicinity of Ground Zero
"Hallowed Ground"?

In a remarkable display of overstepping one's boundaries, the imam behind the so-called Ground Zero mosque in New York City stated that the site surrounding the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York should not be considered 'sacred ground.' As the Associated Press reported his remarks:
"It's absolutely disingenuous, as many have said, that that block is hallowed ground," Rauf said, noting the nearby exotic dance and betting businesses. "So let's clarify that misperception."
Certainly there are differences of opinion about what makes something hallowed ground. Certainly there has been no appearance of divine beings that declared Ground Zero to be hallowed ground, to the best of my knowledge. However, consecration by the Divine is only one way in which an area can be consecrated.

One of the most famous and most revered figures in all of American history is President Abraham Lincoln. In 1863, as he was dedicating a mass cemetery at a Pennsylvania battleground of the Civil War, President Lincoln made one of the shortest but most profound speeches in American history, something now known as the Gettysburg Address. In this brief speech, President Lincoln acknowledged that he and those in attendance had gathered to dedicate the final resting place of the combatants--and then he said this:

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate…we cannot consecrate…we cannot hallow…this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.
The blood of those who die in a struggle also consecrates an area, in President Lincoln's view, and there is much to be said in this regard regarding Ground Zero.
Hundreds of those who died at Ground Zero were law enforcement officers, fire fighters, emergency medical personnel, and other brave workers who struggled to save those who were injured or trapped in the burning Towers. Perhaps the greatest example of bravery I have heard of in my lifetime comes from the testimony of several of those who escaped down the emergency stairs at the Twin Towers, from those people who noted that, while great masses of people were struggling to get down and out of the Towers, the police, fire, and emergency workers were struggling to get in and up into them: these brave officers struggled to go into the very heart of darkness and peril, for the sake of others. Their noble and selfless ultimate sacrifice hallows Ground Zero.
Most of those who died at Ground Zero were not rescuers; they were innocent victims, going about their work, who happened to be in the worst possible place at the worst possible time. In essence, these innocent victims of mass murder were a blood sacrifice to Moloch, God of Terrorism. But America did not accept the purpose of that evil sacrifice. America took the blood of the innocent and reconsecrated it, pledging that never again would we be caught so far off our guard. The blood of the innocent hallows Ground Zero.

Yes, there are betting parlors and exotic dancers in the neighborhood. These are aspects, for better or worse, of American life in that part of town; they were there before 9/11, and it should be no surprise that they are there today. But none of that detracts in the slightest from the fact that Ground Zero was, is, and always shall be hallowed ground. The only point in question is how long America shall remember that, and how it shall choose to recognize and commemorate that.
Hallowing the site of the sacrifices of the heroes and the innocent victims of 9/11 is most certainly On the Mark.

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