Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Good Fight

Love is a Battlefield.

So sang ‘80’s pop-goddess Pat Benetar, in what has to be her catchiest tune. There was a time when everyone was humming that famous riff, which really was good pop rock ‘n roll. Man, the ‘80s were great. Like the calm before a storm. I think Eric Gale sang something like that in the early ‘90s.

I can’t say I agree with Ms. Benetar’s lyrics, because I never really listened to them. But I can’t argue with the title.

I took a stroll through Battery Park tonight. It’s been a while since I’ve done that. Battery Park is a war memorial. There is the original Ft. Clinton which defended Manhattan. There are statues and memorials all over the place, recalling all sorts of wars. The Korean War. Those lost at sea in World War II. There is a monument to the founder of the Salvation Army, a general in a different sort of war.

There is the sculpture of the Immigrants, who did battle against fear and oppression and poverty and made great sacrifices to be free -- kissing the ground; kneeling, arms raised to heaven as if they just arrived on its shores; grasping their hearts, clutching their little ones.

There is the statue of John Ericsson, “whose genius contributed to the greatness of this Republic and the progress of the world,” who did battle against ignorance and man’s slavery to the elements.

It began to dawn on me just how many battles I’ve waged here, in this war memorial, all those frigid nights this past winter, when I came here to say a Rosary and have my talks with God. Battery Park is still a battlefield today.

Tonight the neighborhood was swarming with suits from out of town, all abuzz about their big night in The City. I just wanted a few minutes of peace and quiet in order to fight a small skirmish in my War but there were too many excited little boys who looked like computer salesman running around and Talking Big. So I did what I always do: I escaped into the battlefield.

I walked up to that other sculpture, the one that somehow withstood the collapse of not one but two of the world’s grandest buildings only feet away from it – withstood with only a few scars. I literally said to myself, “Maybe if I stand by that no one will bother me.” I wasn’t there two minutes before a family came up yapping in some other language and taking pictures of themselves with The Sculpture in the background. I laughed to myself. It was not lost on me: they are immigrants. They are a family. This is what is supposed to happen here. This is their park after all.

That Sculpture, which was the centerpiece at the World Trade Center, was dedicated to "world peace" when it was placed between the two Proud Towers. But that is only the smallest of ironies that concern it. It survived that cowardly and barbaric attack on 9/11. Even as the blood, sweat and tears of world trade were turned into dust, ashes and memories, the symbol of the hope of world peace somehow survived, and largely intact except, as I mentioned, for the scars.

After September 11, 2001, the surviving Symbol of World Peace was moved. To Battery Park. To a war memorial. Right there on the opposite side of Hope Garden as the original Battery; right there by the streets of Manhattan. Right there in a living battlefield is the monument to the dream of world peace.

Bob Dylan sang, “you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” And it is, of course, inevitable. “It might be the devil, or it might be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

I guess the reality of today is, “you’re gonna have to fight somebody.” If the good fight isn't fought, the enemies of Good win by default. I think no kind of peace in any kind of realm is unearned. I think it must be won -- captured from the hands of an armed thief and guarded with all one's might. And God's help.

History watches. Over Battery Park, Lady Liberty raises her lamp. Maybe peace isn't a birthright, available just for the asking. Maybe it's a spoil of war.

"For three decades, this sculpture stood in the plaza of the World Trade Center Entitled “The Sphere,” it was conceived by artist Fritz Koenig as a symbol of world peace. It was damaged during the tragic events of September 11, 2001, but endures as an icon of hope and the indestructible spirit of this country. The Sphere was placed here on March 11, 2002 as a temporary memorial to all who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center.

"This eternal flame was ignited on September 11, 2002 in honor of all those who were lost. Their spirit and sacrifice will never be forgotten."


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