Jewish World Review July 31, 2003 / 2 Menachem-Av, 5763
Why no holy cities in America?
The other day, Paul Gigot, the editorial
page editor of the invaluable Wall Street Journal, wrote a very informative
report from Iraq's holy city of Najaf.
He wrote in part that things are not going as badly over there
for us as most of the other journalists seem to think. He wrote that not as
many Iraqis hate us for liberating them from killers, torturers and thieves
as is reported in the rest of the press. He wrote that a particularly
pungent piece in The Washington Post headlined "Rumors Spark Iraqi Protests
As Pentagon Official Stops By" was based on the protest of a single cleric,
residing in the holy city of Najaf. Most of the rest of the Najafians -- if
that is the term for the indigenes -- did not share the excitable cleric's
Gigot's piece got me to thinking. One of my thoughts was: Why in
all of America, a country many times the size of Iraq, do we not have any
holy cities? Not even the Southern Baptists have been able to create a holy
city. I suppose the Mormons believe they have at least one holy city, but
the rest of the country appears not to share their enthusiasm. If America
did have a holy city, which would we settle on?
I suspect New York would win the liberals' nod, at least prior
to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's crackdown on squeegee men. Or possibly
Hollywood, Calif., would get their accolade. It is, after all, their present
cultural capital, their Florence, their Athens.
I am told the liberals love those Hollywood "action movies"
showing busty women in tight-fitting military garb, pistols on their hips,
grenades hanging from the bodices, as they beat the living daylights out of
flabby white men and various creatures from outer space.
The creatures are so bizarre in their physiological components
that Darwin if he saw them would laugh -- and Darwin was not a very giggly
fellow. They have eyes and ears that serve no imaginable purpose, and
appendages that seem useless, and warts, and tails and skin might make any
dermatologist a millionaire.
There are other cities that come to mind. For decades now,
Americans have been listening to rock and roll, or is it rock & roll? Some
Americans become very intellectual about this art form, and I would not want
to betray an ignorance here that might encourage some 55-year lifetime
subscriber to Rolling Stone into thinking me musically illiterate.
At any rate, rock is a major element in American culture, and so
a good prospect for the appellation holy city might be Cleveland. The rock
cognoscenti will tell you that Cleveland is home to
the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. In fact, the building in which rock
has been enthroned is an architectural masterpiece. Moreover, it boasts many
facilities for the elderly and disabled, for rock stars age earlier than the
rest of us and the rigors of their lifestyle have a lot of them hobbling
around on walkers.
Being a native of Chicago, I would like to see this Midwestern
colossus termed a holy city, but in all honesty not even many Chicagoans
would relish their town being raised to the eminence of "holy city." There
is its mafia past. Two generations of the Daley Machine in city hall make
the sanctification of Chicago unlikely. And the Rev. Jesse Jackson claims to
live there, complete with mistresses and his funny money operations. Then,
too, Chicagoans relish the reputation of their city as being a "tough town."
If we were to raise it to the level of holy city, we might get beaten up.
So deciding on an American holy city is not an easy task. Yet
looking back on American history, I think we can all agree that America's
best candidate for the designation "holy city" is Washington, D.C. Liberals
have since FDR's day seen Washington as the great magic wand capable of
righting all wrongs and succoring the nation's teeming masses of indigents.
Quite possibly liberals admire Washington even more than they admire
Hollywood, in all of its intellectual splendor.
Conservatives of a patriotic stripe remember Washington for the
monuments and for the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency. Among
the politically alive, only Americans of strict libertarian rigor are
without reverence for our nation's capital, but then one cannot imagine a
libertarian accepting any city as holy.
So here is my recommendation. Henceforth let us consider
Washington our holy city. If we are insistent enough, journalists from such
prestigious Arab media outlets as al-Jazeera will have to speak of "the holy
city of Washington."
Imagine the headlines: "Bush Returns to the Holy City of
Washington." Or an al-Jazeera reporter might begin an on-the-scene
television report with "I traveled into the holy city of Washington last
night to ..."
This holy city business can cut both ways.
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