A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Defining Hallowed Ground

The term hallowed ground has been tossed back and forth in the ongoing debate about the proposed Muslim community center near ground zero. Opponents have used the term in reference to ground zero almost as if it were the holiest of holy sites. The majority of sane thinking people can agree on a definition of hallowed ground, but the term itself can be applied broadly.

We would probably all agree that Arlington National Cemetery (or any cemetery for that matter) is hallowed. The same could be said for any number of Revolutionary War and Civil War battle sites in the United States. Still other areas could show the term sliding from the sublime to the ridiculous.

A fervent sports fan might consider the stadium where their home team plays as hallowed ground. Many baseball fans might believe that the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY is a high holy shrine. I myself could easily see the Heinz Ketchup plant in Pittsburgh, PA as a building worthy of worship.

Okay, these are extreme examples, but it shows how readily the concept can be abused. So, what should we consider hallowed ground in lower Manhattan? Where should we draw the line between a place of reverence and a locale where everyday life can continue? Have we drawn these boundaries on a map yet? Or are the lines of demarcation fuzzy and prone to relocating according to whichever political agenda we choose to keep at the moment?

The current plans call for the community center to be built two blocks AWAY from ground zero, not AT ground zero. This is a very important differentiation. One side argues that the location is beyond the concept of hallowed ground, while the other maintains that two blocks away from ground zero fits the same definition as ground zero.

Once we determine the actual boundaries of ground zero (naturally by way of Congressional resolution), then we could determine what activity is appropriate within those boundaries. Given that many community center opponents would consider themselves Christians, then it’s only fitting that we follow Jesus’ example for a possible determination of a correct activity.

The Scripture states that Jesus drove the moneychangers (merchants) out of the temple (John 2:13-16 et al). Following in this tradition, we could create a buffer zone between ground zero and the area where normal life begins again. Then, to satisfy the center's opponents, we should suspend all economic activity for whatever radius (six blocks, ten blocks, twenty blocks, etc.) we (meaning Congress) proclaim as sacred. After all, what could be more sacrilegious than satisfying our lust for material wealth on “hallowed ground”?

We’re talking about a wide a swath of premium Manhattan real estate right at the heart of America’s leading financial district. This means goodbye to ten or so Starbucks outlets, which is probably hallowed ground to those addicted to caffeine. Adios to several McDonald’s, that great tabernacle of artery-clogging fast food! Close up, Wells Fargo and Citi Bank! Take your temples of capitalistic excess out of our sight.

Think of it! All businesses within this zone shut down! All employment opportunities gone! Lost revenue in real estate rental, leases, and taxes? Oh, most likely, that would run into the billions of dollars each year! Block after block of empty buildings, shuttered and inviting to vandals and squatters. What a welcome sign to all those who would have to wander through in order to pay their respects at ground zero!

Is this a bad idea? To paraphrase one celebrated community center opponent, “You betcha!” Yet this could be the only feasible compromise between those who want to make a strong statement against al-Qaeda, and those who are trying to make political points at the expense of religious freedom. Ironically, this would accomplish one objective that the terrorists set out to do when they flew into the Twin Towers: disrupt American commerce. As I’ve noted before, any attempt to move the community center away from ground zero could be interpreted as a victory for the terrorists.

(Thank you for reading. Please remember, with opposing sides so far apart, there is plenty of room for everyone to meet in the middle!)


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