Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Fashionably Forgetful

At yesterday’s anti-Ground Zero Mosque in Manhattan, Debra Burlingame, sister of the pilot of the lane that crashed into the Pentagon, said that we say “never forget” because it means something.

There are those of who never forget and then there are those who never cared, including Lower Manhattan residents who actually witnessed the attack. They were the anti-protestors, the blame-America contingent, shouting from the sidelines in a counter protest.

I went, staying at the back of the crowd where there was more space and more air. The weather was hot, but it was so muggy. Still we should be grateful that the rain held off. It poured before the rally and poured even harder afterwards.

I wore my 9/11 tee shirt. I thought if ever there was a time to wear it, this was it. Of course that’s what I thought about seven years ago. In 2006, I bought a very nice 9/11 tee shirt while I was down in Wildwood for the N.J. Firemen’s Convention. They still had a lot of different 9/11 tee shirts in those days, which would be four years ago. This one, I thought, was very tasteful, a variation on the Thomas Franklin flag-raising photo.

I held onto it until the next anniversary. It was a Saturday, I remember. I wore it thinking the idea was to not forget. I went into a pharmacy and was chewed out by some guy who didn’t like the idea of people selling tee shirts, thereby making a profit, or people wearing tee shirts, thereby proclaiming their patriotism. Or something.

Many New Jersey people worked in the Twin Towers and we have many survivors’ families in this area. I wasn’t sure whether maybe he was a family member. But there are two kinds of 9/11 family and I finally figured he must have been on of those described in the paragraph above.

Thinking back now about that event, had I known how much it would annoyed Liberals, I would have paid the vendor twice the value of the shirt, just for the sheer satisfaction. But it seems 9/11 apparel, even if it’s just on the anniversary, or at a rally in support of the 9/11 families, is passé. Never mind that the Liberal kids are running around in absolutely ancient peace sign tee shirts. Put those 9/11 tee shirts and caps away. You might look out of style.

I’m going to search online for more 9/11 tee shirts. I always thought one was enough. But maybe it isn’t. No one seemed to object at this rally, although they seemed surprised. People on the street smiled and stared. But I didn’t care about that. I always was an old-fashioned girl. I wore anklets when everyone else was wearing knee-socks.

I can handle being “out of style” remembering 9/11 and what happened.

As for the rally, it looked to be about 1,000 people, although some of them were counter-protestors. I left about a half hour before the rally ended. My feet were getting so tired from standing that they fell asleep. I had to lean on a railing to shake them awake again.

But just as I was leaving, the counter-protestors started getting ugly and the cops had to rush in to settle things down. One of the problem areas, judging by the news photos, was right where I’d been standing. I’m no good at fistfights. I can shout. I can sing. I can wave a sign or an American flag. But throwing punches. I was sort of glad I didn’t bring my camera, and I’m grateful to my feet for carrying me away before the real trouble started.

Still, while I was there, and as I sang along to God Bless America, a little more loudly than I intended – I’m soft-voiced, I could see down to the Ground Zero site. That’s probably why I sang louder than I meant to, because I’d lifted my head up. The singer also sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” which apparently no one in the crowd besides myself knew the words to (it’s from Carousel, everybody, after Billy Bigelow dies and Julie’s aunt comforts her).

There was a young man standing nearby with a photo of a fallen firefighter. What a smile that firefighter had; it’s the kind of picture any photographer would consider themselves lucky to capture. You could see the resemblance between the firefighter and the young man holding the picture, probably his son.

In the movie Carousel, in the reprise of “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” Julie’s daughter puts her arms around a classmate who’d been a former foe. I wanted to go up and pat this young man on the shoulder. But I thought he would consider it an impertinence – after all he didn’t know me from Adam’s apple – and in any case, the photographers all came out of nowhere to start photographing him and I sure didn’t want to be in any photos.

But as I was singing along to the tune, I glanced back at him now and then. One of the photographers gave me a dirty look. But isn’t that too bad, if she didn’t approve. I really do feel sorry for the 9/11 victims’ families – and I’m a musician and I like to sing, although while I can carry a tune, I can’t carry it very far (or at least I thought I couldn’t).

He probably thought I was staring. No – I was studying the face in the picture and the face holding the picture. I really just liked that face. It’s too bad it’s not around anymore (the one in the photo). Thank goodness for heredity, though. In another 20 years, the young man’s face will probably bear an even stronger resemblance.

The speakers did well. The organizers provided a wide variety, from a New York City councilman who apologized for the treason of his fellow council members and the mayor to genuine Muslims who don’t approve of Shariah Law to Frank Gaffney, who discussed the impact of Shariah on a free society.

There was a priest who spoke also, from the religious point of view. He had the audience on his side until he talked about what would and should happen if the mosque is built. He said every American should go into that mosque and pray for the victims of 9/11. There was mostly silence from the crowd, save for a disquieted murmuring. He got no applause for those lines. Nor did he deserve any.

He said we should thank this imam for something, I forget what. But we should thank him for is reminding us that we shouldn’t forget, that we shouldn’t let remembering 9/11 and true freedom, and what happened that day go out of style.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

All Dogs Go to Heaven

My mother loves dogs. She’s had dogs all her life. Lindy, Debbie, Noodles, Brownie, Stubby, Brandy, Casey. There was also the extended family of dogs: Abraham, Domino, and Charlie Brown (he was the company yard dog, but she considered him her pet).

When one of Mom’s friends, a Christian fundamentalist, told her that Brownie couldn’t go to Heaven, Mom said, “Then I don’t want to go there. I want to go where my dogs are. I want to go to Dog Heaven.”

These religious types. The friend told Mom it was because Brownie (and the other dogs) had no soul. Animals can’t understand God, she said, so they can’t be admitted into Heaven. To the Muslims, looking to overtake us by stealth Shariah, dogs are “unclean.”

It’s a dog life, I tell you. They’re friendly, faithful, fiercely devoted to their masters and this is what they get. Animals may not understand God, but God understand animals – and humans. Doesn’t the Bible say something about God noticing even when the tiniest sparrow falls?

Not everyone loves dogs, of course. We were having lunch with our supervisor, and the subject of dogs came up. Our department secretary’s husband wants to get a dog, but the secretary has put her foot down. No way, absolutely not.

One of my co-workers, who’s a pet parent to two dogs, tried to convince her of the happiness a dog can bring into a household.

“A dog changes the whole dynamic of a home,” said the co-worker. “They bring such positive energy and spirit into the home.” She stopped there and put her hands because the secretary was scowling. Don’t try to talk her into it.

Which is a good thing. It would be no favor to the poor animal to bring it into a home where it isn’t loved. Some people just think dogs are too much work. They’re another chore that the owner comes to resent: the feeding, the walking, the brushing, the cleaning, the vacuuming. Trips to the vet. What do you do with the dog on vacation (I’d take it with me if I had one and I was going on vacation). What if bites someone (well, if you treat it and train it properly, it won’t).

But that’s the way anti-dog people feel. “What if it licks me?” the secretary squealed. “I don’t want a dog slobbering all over me. Ewww!” Oh dear.  Actually, dog saliva is supposed to contain healing qualities.

Years ago, our neighbor’s son was given a puppy as a gift. Don’t ever do that people, please! Anyway, Mrs. Neighbor was never happy about having the dog, though Mr. Neighbor was. Of course, the son didn’t look after the dog and soon trotted off to college, leaving Mom and Dad to look after the now-grown pooch.

Mrs. Neighbor wouldn’t have the dog in the house. Allergies, vacuuming, cleaning! Horrors. The dog was kept tied to a tree in all kinds of weather. Mr. Neighbor finally built the poor creature a dog house. But this was a family dog, not a yard dog. He wanted to be part of the family.

I could see the dog from my bedroom window. One night, we had a blizzard. It was so cold and snowy. It looked to me like the dog’s legs were turning blue, but I wasn’t sure, so I grabbed the binoculars. I know – I’m a nosy neighbor. They were quite blue.

I was so upset. I actually asked God if there wasn’t something He could do for this dog. Was there some way He could change Mrs. Neighbor’s heart, at least for that night, and let this animal in where he could be warm?

But I guess her heart was too hard even for God to change, so He did the next best thing: He took the dog home with Him. The next morning, the dog coop was empty and we never saw him again.

You silly fundamentalist Christians (although they’re at least willing to give dogs houseroom), you heartless Muslim fanatics, and dog haters of all stripes: you’d better pray that Saint Peter doesn’t have a dog beside him at the Pearly Gates, or that a dog isn’t awaiting you on the other side of As-Sirat.