SINCE SEPT. 11, we have been authoritatively informed that buildings as tall as the World Trade Center will never be built again. A "consensus" quickly emerged among city officials to replace the soaring Twin Towers with some potty-little buildings and a park.
But at a meeting to discuss the future of the site last week, hundreds of New Yorkers showed up and shocked the experts by demanding that the towers be rebuilt. One man, who worked on the 77th floor of 1 World Trade Center, said: "Please do not diminish the memory of all of the people who died there by building 50-, 60- or 70-story mediocre buildings on the site."
A little grassy park where people go to weep does lack something in the way of defiance. Instead of us crying, evidently many Americans feel there should be a lot of Arabs crying.
The reason liberals prefer a park to luminous skyscrapers is that they are not angry. Liberals express sympathy for the victims, but they're not angry at the terrorists. Instead of longing to crush and humiliate the enemy, they believe true patriotism consists of redoubled efforts to expand the welfare state. Sen. Hillary Clinton proposed a school for the site and Sen. Charles Schumer, a park. That'll show 'em!
Meanwhile, the construction workers clearing away the rubble vowed they would work without pay to rebuild the World Trade Center. Of course, now that we have 14 cows, that shouldn't be necessary. (In one of the most genuinely touching stories since Sept. 11, a tiny cow-herding village in Kenya that only recently got word of the attack on America made a special present of 14 cows to the United States this week.)
The attack on the World Trade Center ripped America's soul not only for the thousands of lives it consumed. Even if the towers had been empty, the destruction of those buildings would have been heart wrenching.
Skyscrapers are the hallmark of civilization. They are monuments to human brilliance and creativity. I'm sure there are some nice trees, but I note that no one ever talks about the "heavenly suburb." Philosopher Jacques Ellul said cities exhibit "all the hopes of man for divinity." St. Augustine said the "house of God is itself a city."
There have been many unsubstantiated assertions that no one would rent property in a rebuilt World Trade Center. But if fear of another terrorist attack were a major factor in New Yorkers' decisional calculus, they wouldn't be living in New York. The military has the technology to make the buildings safe from incoming missiles. Sept. 11 was a sucker punch. That particular trick doesn't work twice.
Moreover, this argument neglects to consider that by the time a new World Trade Center is built, Arabs will be about as threatening as the Japanese. Who would have imagined after Pearl Harbor that the Japanese were governable? Yet Japan hasn't shown a disposition to fight in 60 years. It is the rare individual who does not succumb to horrendous physical pain. Muslims feel humiliated now? We'll show them humiliated.
Aesthetes complain that the buildings were ugly. Perhaps. But the important thing is, they were really big. There can be a new design, but whatever goes up on that site has got to be bigger and better than the buildings the savages destroyed.
Erecting enormous buildings to replace the Twin Towers limns the distinction between us and the barbarians. We can ride elevators a quarter-mile into the sky and have dinner. What can they do? Multimillionaire Osama bin Laden lived in a cave (and is dead, under a daisy-cutter). Here in America, ordinary Americans consider 70-story buildings "mediocre."
As Donald Rumsfeld said of al-Qaeda, their specialty is "destroying things they could never have built themselves using technologies they never could have developed themselves."
The urge to destroy may not come from Islam, but creation is not Islam's strong suit either. In his immense book "The Creators," historian Daniel Boorstin explains the Islamic approach to innovation. While Judaism and Christianity begin with the Creation, Islam reveres a God who creates nothing. It is a central tenet of Islam that God did not even create the Koran. According to Boorstin, mullahs explain that since "the speech of God is uncreate, the words must be eternal uncreate." The world comes into being not by God's energy and initiative, but by fiat. As Boorstin says: "For a believing Muslim, to create is a rash and dangerous act."
And we wonder why they don't have chairs.
Not surprisingly, Mohamed Atta loathed skyscrapers. Newsweek reported that he viewed the emergence of tall buildings in Egypt as an odious surrender to Western values. The most fitting memorial to the victims of the World Trade Center attack is to build the most breathtaking skyscraper in the world on top of Mohamed Atta's grave.