Yesterday's New York Times featured an editorial which goes to the heart of America's foundations and the need to safeguard our cultural and spiritual freedoms. Speaking of a recent protest directed at an exhibit by The Drawing Center, The Times editor had this to say:
....in the past few weeks, we've watched a handful of vocal family members, who may not represent a majority of 9/11 families, change the dynamic at the World Trade Center site for the worse. They have begun a movement to “take back the memorial,” which means, in essence, eventually purging ground zero of its cultural partners, including the International Freedom Center.
This protest resulted in a shocking response in late June from Gov. George Pataki. He openly joined the criticism of one of those institutions - the Drawing Center - for an exhibition that it sponsored, in another part of town, that contains controversial images of 9/11 and America's role in the world. And he has called on all the cultural partners at ground zero for reassurances that their programs will harmonize with the concerns of this small group of family members.
The World Trade Center site is of enormous importance to all New Yorkers, to all Americans and to people around the planet who have united to fight the insidious forces that led to 9/11. Mr. Pataki's job is to represent all those deeply interested parties. By attempting to appease one small, vocal group of protesters who are unlikely to be appeased anyway, he is abrogating the rights of everyone else. And he runs the risk of turning ground zero into a place where we bury the freedoms that define this nation.
There must be no mistake about this. If the Drawing Center is forced to withdraw from ground zero rather than accept the censorship of exhibitions that are yet to be imagined, no other respectable arts institution will take its place.
We live in a time of great fear and great opportunity. With events like 9/11 and the recent London bombings, its natural to want protection. We give up some freedoms in order to have that protection, but where is the line?
The Drawing Center, like other great arts and cultural institutions, helps to keep freedom alive by featuring work that expresses different viewpoints on life - sometimes harmonious, sometimes disturbing, and sometimes breathtaking. If we take that away, or allow it to be diluted with fear, what's left?