A Stone's Throw from Ground Zero, the Pain Endures

Inside Madison Square Garden, the Republicans capitalize on New York's pain. Outside, the police cause more anguish by clamping down on dissent.

| September 2004

NEW YORK -- Stand in the middle of Central Park and rotate 'round and 'round, blinking your eyes continuously. You'll see shirtless Asian boys learning to kick box, Latinos jamming to a boom box, an older white couple sharing a bottle of Chardonnay, Africans playing chess. These are snapshots not of America, but of New York, the world's city that culturally belongs to every nation and no nation at the same time.

But listen to the rhetoric seeping out of Madison Square Garden this week, more specifically the words of Michael Bloomberg and Rudolph Giuliani, and you may trick yourself into believing that the Big Apple represents the United States, or that most New Yorkers actually feel a connection with Iowans, Texans or Idahoans, the likes of whom have invaded Manhattan this week for the Republican National Convention.

George W. Bush's supporters from the heartland hark back to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 compulsively, as if their right to continue breathing fresh air after this November depends on it. But many of the outsiders swarming the streets don't seem to get the message that New Yorkers have for them: 'Don't use our pain for your political gain!'

The gaping hole that was created in lower Manhattan almost three years ago left a void in the hearts and psyche of many locals. Most cried; many screamed; some chanted 'USA, USA, USA' where the World Trade Center towers once stood; and many supported the Bush administration's decision to invade Afghanistan to root out the culprits. But a Republican National Convention boasting an oversimplified message to reelect an unpopular incumbent blending into New York City's worldly, progressive, and complex culture is like oil and water mixing. Don't count on it.

'If using the legacy of September 11 is a publicity stunt, it's a bad stunt,' said Dorsett Santos at the Poor People's March on Tuesday. 'This is the only thing Bush can write on his presidential resume. But New York does not want to be known for that.'

Larry Nodarse touted a sign at Ground Zero yesterday reading, RNC delegates, Stop exploiting the mass murder of 2,749 people on September 11, 2001. He talked to me about his rage as a homeless man nearby played 'Amazing Grace' on his flute:

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