Manhattanhenge, Part 2

July 13, 2012

I could be persuaded Instagram may have some value:

Manhattanhenge, July 12, 2012 - photo by Henry Sene Yee

Manhattanhenge, July 12, 2012 – photo by Henry Sene Yee

Even a bigger hit the second day in July (it also occurs two days in May).

But can this be accurate?

As the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson put it on the Hayden Planetarium website, “Manhattanhenge may just be a unique urban phenomenon in the world, if not the universe.”

Surely there is a phenomenon almost as cool, somewhere in the American Midwest or Mountain West, perhaps, where the good Presbyterian, Lutheran and Mormon pioneers laid out their cities and entire states with clean Cartesian grids . . . anyone got information to correct Dr. Tyson?

Maybe the question to ask, perhaps from Tyson, is how to calculate when an east-west street in your town might get a “henge” moment.

For example, how about a special sunrise at Delicate Arch, in Arches National Park?  Or at Newgrange, Ireland?

Sunrise at Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, by Alex Savage

Sunrise at Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, by Alex Savage

Solstice sunrise at Newgrange, Ireland - Photograph by Cyril Byrne - courtesy of The Irish Times

December 20, 2009, solstice sunrise at Newgrange, Ireland – Photograph by Cyril Byrne – courtesy of The Irish Times (Astronomy Picture of the Day, NASA)


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?


Michael Kinnamon on Cordoba House and mosque at Ground Zero

August 14, 2010

An essay from a thoughtful Christian about the controversy over building a mosque in Manhattan; Kinnamon notes some of the history that should be considered:

For thousands of families, Ground Zero in southern Manhattan is holy ground. Thousands lost someone they love in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, and hundreds of thousands know someone who was directly or indirectly scarred by the collapse of the World Trade Center. The emotional investment in Ground Zero cannot be overestimated.

That is precisely why Ground Zero must be open to the religious expression of all people whose lives were scarred by the tragedy: Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus, and more. And Muslims.

No one knows how many Muslims died on 9/11, but they number in the hundreds. One was Salman Hamdani, a 23-year-old New York City police cadet, emergency medical technician and medical student. When Salman disappeared on September 11, law enforcement officials who knew of his Islamic faith sought him out among his family to question him about the attacks. His family lived with the onus of suspicion for six months until Salman’s body was identified. He was found near the North Tower with his EMT bag beside him, situated where he could help people in need.

The point of this now famous story is simple. Not every Muslim at Ground Zero was a terrorist, and not every Muslim was a hero. The vast majority were like thousands of others on September 11: victims of one of the most heinous events of our times.

But for the family of Salman Hamdani and millions of innocent Muslims, the tragedy has been exacerbated by the fact that so many of the rest of us have formed our opinions about them out of prejudice and ignorance of the Muslim faith.

It is that narrow-minded intolerance that has led to the outcry against the building of Cordoba House and Mosque near Ground Zero. It is the same ignorance that has led many to the outrageous conclusion that all Muslims advocate hatred and violence against non-Muslims. It is the same ignorance that has led to hate crimeand systematic discrimination against Muslims, and to calls to burn the Qur’an.

On the eve of Ramadan on August 11, the National Council of Churches, its Interfaith Relations Commission and Christian participants in the National Muslim-Christian Initiative, issued a strong call for respect for our Muslim neighbors.

“Christ calls us to ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ (Matthew 22:39),” the statement said. “It is this commandment, more than the simple bonds of our common humanity, which is the basis for our relationship with Muslims around the world.”

The statement supported building Cordoba House “as a living monument to mark the tragedy of 9/11 through a community center dedicated to learning, compassion, and respect for all people.”

Now the National Council of Churches reaffirms that support and calls upon Christians and people of faith to join us in that affirmation.

The alternative to that support is to engage in a bigotry that will scar our generation in the same way as bigotry scarred our forebears.

Three-hundred years ago, European settlers came to these shores with a determination to conquer and settle at the expense of millions of indigenous peoples who were regarded as sub-human savages. Today, we can’t look back on that history without painful contrition.

One-hundred and fifty years ago, white Americans subjugated black Africans in a cruel slavery that was justified with Bible proof-texts and a belief that blacks were inferior to whites. Today, we look back on that history with agonized disbelief.

Sixty years ago, in a time of war and great fear, tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans were deprived of their property and forced into detention camps because our grandparents feared everyone of Japanese ancestry. Today that decision is universally regarded as an unconscionable mistake and a blot on American history.

Today, millions of Muslims are subjected to thoughtless generalizations, open discrimination and outright hostility because of the actions of a tiny minority whose violent acts defy the teachings of Mohammed.

How will we explain our ignorance and our compliance to our grandchildren?

It’s time to turn away from ignorance and embrace again the words of Christ: Love your neighbor as yourself.

In that spirit, we welcome the building of Cordoba House and Mosque near Ground Zero.

Michael Kinnamon's signature

Michael Kinnamon
General Secretary
National Council of Churches

The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon

The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, a Disciples of Christ minister who is the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.

The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) clergyman and a long-time educator and ecumenical leader, is the ninth General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.

The NCC is the ecumenical voice of America’s Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, historic African American, evangelical and traditional peace churches. These 36 communions have 45 million faithful members in 100,000 congregations in all 50 states.

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