Hallowed ground: Why other nations think we’re nuts

August 20, 2010

Scott Hanley at Angular Unconformities used Google Earth to see how other nations deal with the placement of potentially-offensive installations near the sites of their great national calamaties.

Charles Krauthammer pushed the argument to the shark-jumping bridge in his regular column at the Washington Post:

When we speak of Ground Zero as hallowed ground, what we mean is that it belongs to those who suffered and died there — and that such ownership obliges us, the living, to preserve the dignity and memory of the place, never allowing it to be forgotten, trivialized or misappropriated.

That’s why Disney’s 1993 proposal to build an American history theme park near Manassas Battlefield was defeated by a broad coalition that feared vulgarization of the Civil War (and that was wiser than me; at the time I obtusely saw little harm in the venture). It’s why the commercial viewing tower built right on the border of Gettysburg was taken down by the Park Service. It’s why, while no one objects to Japanese cultural centers, the idea of putting one up at Pearl Harbor would be offensive.

We noted on another thread that there is, in fact, a Japanese Cultural Center at Pearl Harbor.  Hanley wonders how the Japanese deal with reminders of the being the victims of the first atomic bomb used in warfare — a topic upon which the Japanese are understandably extremely sensitive.

Go to the photos, see what Hanley found:

Hallowed ground

Baseball and 7-Eleven, symbols of American cultural imperialism at the site of the world’s first nuclear assault. McDonald’s, by contrast, maintains a discreet 2000′ distance across the river.

This campaign against a Moslem cultural center in lower Manhattan is the prototypical example of where the “Ugly American” myth gets its roots. Hanley’s analysis is incredibly simple, no?

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