My Cross To Bear – An Annotated Segment Of The Five – A Rant By Aunty Em
Reported by Aunty Em - July 30, 2011 -
Whenever we News Hounds, working behind the scenes to divide the labor, encounter another one of those Fox “News” “Defending the Good Christian Cross” segments, I am always happy to let Priscilla do it. It’s not out of laziness, but because she has grounding in the religion that I—born Jewish just like Jesus—simply don’t have. She can not only quote the New Testament, but she also has an understanding of the culture that I cannot even begin to pretend to fathom. Finally: I always learn something about Christianity from her religion posts and even more about Fox “News.” However, when The Five recently did a segment on That Old Rugged Cross at Ground Zero, I knew it was time to put down a few of my thoughts on the topic. Everyone put on your flame-retardant underwear and stand back, because I’m taking special dispensation (isn’t that a religious concept?) to editorialize from my particular point of view. These comments are my own and do not reflect the opinion of News Hounds, or anyone else who writes here.
Here we go. The segment in question, with my annotated transcription below:
Video courtesy Media Matters
MC: A group of atheists, accurately called American Atheists—
GG: That’s original.
MC: —have decided to sue New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, as well as the states [sic] of New Jersey and the city of New York over this Ground Zero cross. Now this cross was found, literally, within 24, 36 hours after the attacks on Nine Eleven. It’s two pieces of the beam of one of the World Trade Center Towers. There you can see it.
I can see it. Hallelujah!
It looks exactly that lower-case “T” that’s been shoved in my face ever since I was a young Jew growing up in Detroit, getting called a “kike” by the good Christians attending Immaculate Heart of Mary, just across the street from Warren E. Bow Elementary School. The only way to avoid the daily shouts of “kike” was to take a very circuitous route to school, which added 2 long blocks to my already mile-long walk. And, while some might say, “Children will be children and they can be very cruel,” not everyone who called me a “kike” was a child. Some were adults and every one of them (I’m guessing) wore a cross. I am reminded of Mahatma Gandhi’s famous quotation, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Yeah, I can see it, Monica, and I can also recognize it as a symbol of oppression that has followed me my entire life. But I interrupted. You were saying?
MC: Perfectly shaped cross and it has stood on the site of Ground Zero for the last 10 years. Well, this group, American Athiests, is now suing to prevent this cross from being displayed at the Nine Eleven memorial. Bolling, you were there on Nine Eleven, at Ground Zero, working on Wall Street. Your thoughts?
Before Bolling weighs in…When I see that image of the so-called cross in front of the rubble of the World Trade Center I cannot help but think of Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s “chickens coming home to roost” comment. I’ve read a great deal about The Crusades. It was that very same cross—that very same symbol of oppression—used against Jews and Muslims and every other non-conformist during those dark times. So, what do these knuckleheads want to do? They want to enshrine this symbol of oppression at Ground Zero, as if this was just the latest battle in The Crusades.
Okay, Eric, go ahead.
EB: No, no, I watched the second plane flying through the tower. I watched the towers come down. I saw friends—I saw people—I saw people jumping out of windows—It was a horrible scene.
We all saw that, Eric. Some of us saw it on tee vee; you got to see it live, maybe, but you don’t actually say that. But that doesn’t mean it was any less affecting for, say f’rinstance, me who turned in early enough to watch the second plane hit the tower and everything else that followed. I cried inconsolable for hours—days even. But why is your opinion any more valid than mine? Because it’s your religious symbol? Oh, please! Spare me. But do go on. I’m just dying to hear what you have to say.
EB: But I did also see—I saw George Bush get up on—on the wreckage and say, “They’ll hear you. They’ll hear you loud and clear and the people who took down these buildings will hear you loud and clear.”
That’s where you want to go with this, Eric? To Little Arbusto, who started a war of choice against Iraq, which had nothing to do with Nine Eleven, based upon Saddam’s Weapons of Mass Destruction, which turned out to be a false premise in the first place? Those with brains recognize the folly of having attacked Iraq. Those of us who read—or watch tee vee beyond the Fox “News” Channel—are also aware of how many new terrorists were created by that stupendously idiotic decision to go to war against Iraq, perpetuating (for how many more generations?) what is being perceived by many on both sides as a religious war. The war in Iraq has cost trillions of dollars in treasure (and still counting); several thousands of American lives (and still counting); untold hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi lives (and still counting), a number usually and conveniently forgotten whenever the costs of this war is discussed; untold hundreds of thousands of refugees in the region; and destabilization in the Middle East. However, something tells me that you’re just fine with all that, Eric, as long as you can continue to starve the Middle Class to pay for this war that Bush conveniently left off the books and President Obama decided needed to be paid for.
And, let’s not forget, that it was also George W. Bush who took his eyes off Osama bin Laden when he was cornered in Bora Bora and outsourced the job. It took President Obama to deliver (frontier?) justice. Face it, Eric, George W. Bush was all hat, no cattle.
I’m sorry. I interrupted again—just like you all do to Bob Beckel whenever he opens his mouth on The Five. Please, go on. This is fascinating. I didn’t realize that bringing up Bush was just a knee-jerk tangent.
EB: When that cross emerged it was kinda like the symbol of hope.
Hope to whom, Eric? I know a lot of people who do not consider the Christian cross a symbol of hope and that’s not just me, who grew up as a Jew being called a “kike” by people wearing your “symbol of hope.” I have since grown out my religiosity and embraced an atheist point of view, as I have gotten older and wiser. I don’t put my faith in a Sky Dude who will make everything right. I put my faith in myself and those people who demonstrate honesty and integrity. Although, I must admit, I do have a certain fondness for The Flying Spaghetti Monster and could become a Pastafarian in an instant, if they had a really cool dance.
I’m sorry. You were saying?
EB: And that whole area was devastated and then we saw that and it was like, there’s hope. Someone is going to look down and take care of this area.
And, by “someone” you mean God, right? Your God? The Christian God? Right, Eric? If somehow a Star of David had emerged from the wreckage, you would have shit your pants. Yet, two straight lines, at a perpendicular angle—something that can be ‘seen’ in thousands of objects on a daily basis—is somehow a miraculous event to you and your ilk? Do you not realize just how many so-called crosses it takes to build a high-rise office building out of steel girders? Do you also see the face of Jesus in your toast?
Furthermore, if your God was going to look down and take care of an area, don’t you think he might have done something to prevent the attack in the first place? But, you were saying?
EB: —and they have. And now the atheists want to yank that. I’m outraged. I’m outraged that the anti-God—[crosstalk]
BB: Did it become a cross and it fell off. It fell off that way?
AT: That’s the way that it fell.
EB: It happened to be standing. It happened to be standing like that[makes the shape of a cross with his fingers] and everyone said, “Wow!”
No, Eric. Not everyone. When I saw the cross emerge—when I heard the first discussions, 10 years ago—when Christians began touting this Sky God Miracle Cross™, I said to myself, “Here we go again.” It’s just a new way to shove that fucking symbol down our throats for another few centuries, which is guaranteed to inflame passions on one side or the other…or both.
I want you to try and see it from another perspective, Eric. (Yet, I know you will dismiss all of this without a single consideration.) For my entire life I have had that symbol of oppression shoved down my throat (and I’ve been carrying a lot of resentment over it. I’m unloading some of it here and now.) Think about this one, Eric: How did people know I was a Jew growing up? I certainly never told them. Why not? Because I learned at a very young age that to tell people I was Jewish would have resulted in getting thumped (yes, I was given real physical pain because of the religion I happened to be born under) and called names. Aside from “kike” this included “Christ-killer,” even though I happened to be out sick the day that Jesus got it. Besides, it was the state that executed Jesus, not the Jews who held no power.
So, how did people know I was a Jew, when I was smart enough to try and keep it to myself? Because I had to ask for the Jewish holidays off. What about your holidays, Eric? Those are always automatic days off. You don’t have to out yourself as a Christian to take your holidays off. It’s a given. The entire school year was also geared to your holidays. It was called “Christmas Vacation” and “Easter Break.” As I got older, I had to then negotiate with employers to take off my holidays. Not all of them were always Semitic-friendly, let's say. Some of them actually groused that I not only got Jewish holidays off, but the Christian holidays as well, as if that was a system I set up and condoned. More than one employer insisted that I use sick days to take off Jewish holidays (something I had put out of mind until my editor Ellen mentioned that she had suffered the same indignity).
And the songs. Let's not forget the songs. Each year, for more than a month, I have to endure Christmas songs coming out of every radio and television, even elevator muzak. Worse yet, growing up I was forced to sing those songs. When my parents found out I was singing songs about Baby Jesus and Silent Nights, Holy Nights, I could see the pain in their faces, even though I wasn't old enough to understand why. I certainly understand now. They had no way to protect me from that indoctrination.
But, do go on, Eric, because it’s all about you and your religion.
EB: —And the, yannow, honestly—the teddy bears and flowers around that thing. That thing should stand.
MC: This is such a sacred symbol on sacred ground, right?
AT: Absolutely. At—look—I guess that’s what happened [sic] when you don’t believe in God—you have all this extra time because you’re not praying. You use it for unproductive things, like suing about this. The fact of the matter is, the atheists are upset because it’s the only religious symbol, they say, there’s no other religious symbol around. That’s not because it’s not allowed to have another religious symbol around. I mean—I just think this is absolutely ridiculous. The atheists in New York need to find something better to do with their time.
If I did believe in God, this would be the perfect time to say, “OMG!” Are you serious, Andrea, or are you just flinging shit at the wall to see what sticks? Maybe atheists believe this is worth their time because of what I have been saying here and because of the ridiculous attitudes of people like you who think there is only one true religion and that everybody else should just get out of Jesus’ way, because he’s going to come back and kick butt during the End Times.
And, don’t even get me started on the Christian support for the nation of Israel. That, of course, has nothing to do with support for the Israeli people and has everything to do your religion’s End Times fantasy. In that scenario, Israelis are only the caretakers of Israel, keeping it all together until Jesus can come back and send all the non-believers into the fires of Hell. So much for being one of God’s Chosen People.
Monica’s turn again? Okay.
MC: Greg, don’t you think that—that—Ground Zero represents a battle in this war? And the war was brought to us on Nine Eleven by Islamic terrorists acting in the name of their faith, but we can’t put up a symbol of Christianity or Judaism or anything else?
You’ve just proven what I said above: To you this is just the latest battle in The Crusades. Besides, you’re not talking about a symbol of “Judaism or anything else,” Monica. You are talking about the symbol that was at the forefront of The Crusades, the symbol used to crush all other religious symbols and all other religions. You are so blinded by your own religion that you refuse to see how fighting for your symbol to be placed prominently at Ground Zero perpetuates the entire “Us vs. Them” mentality that helped lead to this tragedy in the first place. Can’t we get beyond that?
But it was Greg’s turn to pontificate when I interrupted. This should be interesting. Go ahead, Greg.
GG: Well, the thing is—I mean, I think we established it wasn’t even a created symbol. It was an accidental symbol, so the argument that we created this cross is a bit weird.
Then if it’s accidental, why does everyone want to genuflect over it? Oh, sorry, you had more to say? Do go on, Greg.
GG: The other thing too is, I have no qu—I have absolutely no quarrel with atheism. I think the eternal question that we all face in the loneliest parts of our night is whether there is a God or not, and people come to this decision of [sic] their own. However, this is a really, really stupid battle to fight, and I don’t see these guys going to military cemeteries and pluck—and, and going, “Hey, these white crosses? Let’s get rid of these white crosses.” They’re too scared to do that.
Doesn’t that just take the cake? No one is talking about removing crosses from military cemeteries, but you have no problem muddying the waters of the argument to make your stupid point to call atheists cowards. How very brave of you in this intellectual argument to introduce the strawman you can knock down. Personally I think it’s brave of American Atheists to go after the established hierarchy. I applaud American Atheists for taking a brave position on this topic.
While on the subject of cemeteries: Truth be told, I love to wander through cemeteries. If given a choice I would much prefer to explore (and photograph) a Christian cemetery than a Jewish one. Jewish cemeteries tend to be boring, with just the Star of David as decoration. Christian cemeteries, on the other hand, have all this other iconography and architecture: there’s the cross, of course, but there are also statues of Jesus, Mary, angels and other cherubim. You see, I can appreciate it all for the intrinsic beauty inherent and its historical context. I just think it should remain history. I don’t think the cross should continue to be made central to daily life in ‘Merka. For one thing: it’s not central to a great number of people who live in the country. For another: It just perpetuates war in the name of religion.
The New York Times queried a number of prominent atheists to see how they felt about the American Atheists lawsuit and the Ground Zero Cross. The only one who responded was Bill Maher who made my entire point in far fewer words:
The news from Norway reminds us that Christianity is also a religion with a bloody history, and perfectly capable of creating dangerous, violent extremists just as Islam does. Once you buy into the idea of things that are "holy", you're closer to buying into the idea of a "holy war." Anders Breivik was a terrorist calling for a Christian war against Muslims. In this atmosphere, symbols about whose god "rules" are not helpful.
We can stop the practice here and now. Let’s not enshrine an accident of destruction, which happens to resemble the Christian cross, on a place that should be venerated as a place where Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus (maybe), and Atheists (in all probability) lost their lives over the outmoded concept of religion. Let’s stop the madness.