Emmitt Smith, known for the time he spent as a member of America’s Team, has the world’s most rushing yards. When he first hit this record he got some criticism from people who complained that the only reason he beat the previous record was because he didn’t retire as early as other men. They were missing the larger point – he didn’t retire. He stayed in until he broke the damn record.
If you know nothing of architecture or engineering you could
suppose the same is true with a building.
You want the tallest building?
Then keep building! You’re upset
that it’s not the tallest building? Put
more building on top of that building, if that’s what’s important to you.
The building they’re building at One World Trade Center is being
bragged about for all the wrong reasons.
In fact, everything they DO brag about highlights everything that it’s
The building is trying to raise its 408ft spire, but that spire
sours the accomplishment of the 1,368 feet of actual building. They wanted the whole structure to be 1,776
feet, fine, we dig a bit of symbolism.
But the enormity of the spire makes it look like we couldn’t actually
build anything that high, so we’re holding up a long stick to make up the
difference. It’s like that kid in class
who really wanted to be called on, so
he held up his pencil by the tip of its eraser in hopes of getting noticed,
only to be trumped by the douchebag next to him who did the same fucking thing
with his ruler.
The current boasts are that it’s the tallest building in the
Western Hemisphere – but wasn’t the point to make the height symbolic? It shouldn’t matter whether it’s the tallest.
It may not even be the
tallest, because the spire raises an issue of what you should measure and where
you should measure from, which makes it neigh impossible to ignore the
parallels of phallic worship. Every
red-blooded American man did, at some point in his life, hold a ruler up to his
business and had a moment of hesitation when he couldn’t figure out where to
start the ruler. (If you’re a woman
reading this, please turn to the man nearest you and ask what that means. Even if you already know. His reaction will probably be awesome.)
Supposing the spire officially counts in the total height of
the building, are we really proud of having the tallest building in the Western
Hemisphere? Are we bragging that we can
build shit taller than Bolivia? By
pointing out it’s the tallest in the Western Hemisphere you’re just
highlighting that it’s the tallest building ever as long as you don’t count the
places where there are bigger ones. In
that case, fine, Chicago is home to the two largest buildings in Chicago.
Yes, it’s a tremendous feat of engineering, but that’s not
why it should be celebrated. We didn’t
build this because someone knocked over our Legos. It wasn’t our architectural standards that
were being attacked. Nearly a dozen
years ago, a new generation had reason to answer the question “Where were you
that day?” The last time a tragedy hit
us that hard as a nation was nearly forty years earlier. Visual coverage then was relatively minimal,
so the events of November 1963 aren’t as viscerally remembered, nor can they be
so vicariously revisited unto further generations and lived anew. This was bigger. This was harder. This scared us in a way we’d only been
theoretically scared before. When the
shit was still raining down that morning we didn’t know when or if it was over
yet. Maybe this was just stage one, a
distraction from the next thing.
Colorado high school football teams loaded up their pickup trucks and
headed off to the mountains in case the Commies paratrooped their way in
In the long run it didn’t just take lives, it took our
unity. It made us fight each other over
the best way to respond, widening the gulf between those of us who had
difficulty agreeing with each other in the first place. To this day the people with the loudest
voices are the ones who are subjugating and de-humanizing anyone with a passing
resemblance to the people who attacked us that day.
Building the tallest tower doesn’t replace what we lost. It won’t revisit the better angels of our
nature who have since became demons. Indeed,
the whole enterprise has become rather anticlimactic. Two wars were started, then screwed up to the
point that everyone in that administration has been nothing but a punch line. It’s been two years since we got the guy who
was ultimately responsible. So now,
nearly a dozen years later, we almost have a tower which may or may not be
allowed to be considered the symbolic height paralleling the founding of our
In any case it’s still a year away from opening, and it’s kind
of an afterthought, like the guy who gets insulted at a party and doesn’t think
up a really good comeback until three days later when it suddenly hits him on
his lunch break, but now no one could possibly
give a shit.
We responded to that day in a lot of ways. In the minority are the ways which resulted
in creation rather than destruction.
Hopefully the legacy of One World Trade Center will be less about what
it literally is and how it measures against unrelated projects with unrelated
purposes and more about what it means to build ourselves back up instead of
tearing something else down.
Also, let’s also be glad it’s no longer called the “Freedom