New York Times Butchers a Civil War Analogy

[Hat-Tip to Caleb McDaniel at Clippings]

Today’s editorial in the New York Times serves as a reminder of just how easily we can sink into conceptual confusion when trying to make sense of the ongoing wave of fear surrounding the building of an Islamic Cultural Center in the vicinity of “Ground Zero”:

As the site of America’s bloodiest terrorist attack, New York had a great chance to lead by example. Too bad other places are ahead of us. Muslims hold daily prayer services in a chapel in the Pentagon, a place also hallowed by 9/11 dead. The country often has had the wisdom to choose graciousness and reconciliation over triumphalism, as is plain from the many monuments to Confederate soldiers in northern states, including the battlefield at Gettysburg.

The analogy simply doesn’t work because Muslims (Islam) did not attack the United States on September 11, 2001.  McDaniel is correct in pointing out that the very analogy “undercuts the editorial’s absolutely correct insistence that (despite what a dismaying number of New Yorkers and Americans believe) ‘Muslim’ does not mean ‘terrorist’ or ‘terrorist sympathizer.’”  Finally, anyone familiar with the evolution of monument building on the Gettysburg and Antietam battlefields would not fall into the trap of characterizing it as reflecting “graciousness and reconciliation over triumphalism.”

8 comments… add one
  • Margaret D. Blough Sep 4, 2010 @ 3:32

    Gee, I thought that New was against federal government spending? The fact is that one does not just declare a site a national park & gain control over the land in it. The land or a suitable easement in the land has to be acquired before the government has any say on what the owner do with it, even on private land (“inholdings” in NPS-speak). within the boundaries of an established national Park Even if eminent domain is used, just compensation must be paid. That’s some of the priciest real estate in the world.

    As for Gettysburg, as I understand it, the land is outside park boundaries, so, under its authorizing legislation, the NPS can’t acquire it. To be able to acquire it, Congress would have to amend the GNMP’s act to allow it and provide the money to pay for the aquisition.

  • Andy Hall Sep 3, 2010 @ 6:42

    The conflation of the Civil War and 9/11 gets worse. Now Newt Gingrich is arguing that the WTC site should be designated a “battlefield site:”

    “I think the Congress has the ability to declare the area a national battlefield memorial because I think we should think of the World Trade Center as a battlefield site; this is a war,” he said, apparently thinking that if Ground Zero was a national park, Park51 would be restricted from building near it.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 3, 2010 @ 6:46

      Well, so much for a philosophy of limited government. I hesitate to respond given the absurdity of the proposal.

      • Andy Hall Sep 3, 2010 @ 7:10

        You can delete this comment if you feel it’s too obviously politically partisan, but what’s most disappointing about this particular statement is that it comes from Gingrich, who flatters himself as an historian with an academic background, and who is generally looked to by members of his party as a thinker-of-deep-thoughts. He’s supposedly the “intellectual” of his party, the elder statesman, the brainy guy who sees and understands better than most the long arc of American history. What’s appalling is not that someone said this, but that Gingrich said it.

        (Not unlike Rudy “America’s Mayor” Giuliani, who shrieks at the prospect of trying terrorism cases in federal court in Manhattan, who was elected mayor based in large part on his record of trying terrorism cases in federal court in Manhattan. But I digress. . . .)

        • Kevin Levin Sep 3, 2010 @ 7:18

          It’s an appropriate assessment of Gingrich given his education and a great example of how history is all too often appropriated for political gain. That’s all this is.

          • Marianne Davis Sep 3, 2010 @ 7:57

            Does anyone else see the charm in Newt’s plan to declare the WTC a national battlefield, a la Gettysburg? Does that mean we should make Gettysburg more like the NY site, and bring in some strip joints and massage parlors to raise the standards to more hallowed levels?

            • Kevin Levin Sep 3, 2010 @ 8:34

              This story actually reminds me of a recent post I did on Clyde Wilson: The same response is appropriate here: Hey Newt Gingrich, I don’t believe you.

            • Mark Snell Sep 3, 2010 @ 13:00

              Or, maybe make Gettysburg more like Kevin’s hometown, Atlantic City, and bring in a casino.
              Oh, I forgot. Someone’s already working on that . . . .

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