Wednesday, September 08, 2004

New York and 9/11

Looking at Fritz's earlier posting and remembering the event, as I was there, I think some elaboration needs to be made. It should be noted that while Fritz and I were indeed present for the Republican National Convention, we were there to observe youth journalists(whom we had given $15,000)who were covering the event as they had the Democratic Convention in Boston. Fritz had already observed them at the Boston event. Overall, we were impressed with these young individuals (aged 13-18) professionalism and skill as future journalists. The reason we happened to be at this particular event together was that it nicely fit between our own conference in DC and the American Political Science conference in Chicago the next week. We had two days free which could either have been spent flying to LA and back, or making a fun side stop in NY which would also be occupationally productive. Our mission had no ideological or political purpose behind it, given my and our organization's founders major focus on programatic non-partisanship.

This isn't to say that Fritz and I don't have political opinions, it is pretty obvious that we do and that is a good thing. But this mission was part of our job and not a demonstration of advocacy.

What struck me about the individual who reprimanded Fritz, and me, was that he assumed that anyone visiting Ground Zero during the convention was: a) a Republican, b) insincere, c) wrong, d) an idiot who didn't care about the pain of others. These assumptions are what made him to be the individual who was wrong and not those at Ground Zero.

Imagine if you will that you have a friend or family, or even someone you respect who has died, and the Republicans have en masse decided to attend his funeral because they all dig him too. You have decided to attend the funeral, or grave would be better, in order to honor this friend and while you are there an individual chastises you (not the politicos around you who are obvious in their red, white, and blue attire) and shames you for being there. This is not dissent, this is disrespect.

I had never been to Ground Zero, in fact I had never been to New York before this year. As a child, I had dreamed of going to the top of the Towers and beating my chest like King Kong. I know that is a silly dream, but it stuck with me until adulthood. When the towers fell, that dream became an impossibility. When fellow Americans died, the location became a place of national mourning. I went to the sight to mourn the dead. Not to advocate a party, not to advocate a war, but as an apolitical act of sorrow. During my mourning, this gentleman harrassed me and he harrassed Fritz.

Had he complained at a restaurant, even to me, later and left time for discussion, that maybe could have been considered dissent. It at least would have left time for the truth of the situation to come out. Instead, he verbally criticized me in anger and made assumptions about my very reasons for being there. It wasn't Fritz who was judging him for criticizing his statement, it was this gentleman judging Fritz for his sorrow. It was a low blow and a cheap shot. The man was rude and in no way intended to discuss or share the actual tragedy of our memories.

I have said previously that both the Presidents seven minutes, and Kerry's forty minutes, of shock earned my respect. Why? Because I was stunned for at least a full day, probably longer if I thought about the memories.

It was this New York gentleman who politicized the situation and Fritz has every reason to complain. More, in fact than the New Yorker. One could argue that my criticism of the New Yorker is an argument against assumption. I will make no assumptions about what the gentleman was thinking when he talked to us, rather base him on his words alone. He verbally criticized us and attacked the sincerity of our mourning, that isn't dissent that is improperly directed anger. Dissent would be him protesting in front of Madison Square Garden or writing an OpEd. This guy was just rude and not all rudeness is dissent.

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