January 24, 2002

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if political correctness could be taken a bit too far? Well that's a no-brainer for most folks with a little common sense as the desire to not offend anyone already has placed a firm grip on what we can and can not say. When I write my Outdoor Corner I address fisher-people instead of fishermen. If that is the biggest adjustment I have to make I must count myself as fortunate because I know that folks that live in areas with a little more ethnic diversity really have to watch their P's and Q's.

It is this ethnic political correctness that has inspired this editorial. I have to admit that I apparently slept through the week's worth of news about this issue and must thank one of our readers for pointing out the issue of the firemen's statue in New York City. For those of you who also missed this controversy I'll offer a little background.

Most of us have seen the now famous photograph of the three firemen raising the American flag on the pile of rubble at "Ground Zero" during the rescue efforts at the World Trade Center in New York City. The picture quickly gained popularity, based somewhat on the amazing similarity to the 1945 photograph of six United States soldiers raising the flag in a similar matter after the Battle of Iwo Jima.

A bronze statue based on this photograph is being created to be placed in front of the NYC Fire Department's Headquarters building in Brooklyn in memory of the 343 firemen. I say based on the picture, because the bronze replica will not be historically correct. Instead of accurately depicting the event as it happened with the likeness of firemen Dan McWilliams, George Johnson and Billy Eisengrein, the statue will offer an alternate view of the event, a more "politically correct" statue. Instead of picturing the three firemen, the statue will use three generic images, one white fireman, one Hispanic fireman and one black fireman.

According to a story by the Associated Press, the decision to make the statue politically correct instead of historically accurate was made by the fire department, the makers of the statue and the management company that runs the department headquarters building.

Maybe I am ethnically insensitive, but I don't feel this is fair to those three men who raised the flag. I also think it speaks volumes for how fearful we as a nation have become of being considered politically incorrect. Instead of giving these three men their just dues, the leadership of the project was more afraid of offending the 2.7 percent of the 11,500 NYC firemen that are black or the 3.2 percent that are Hispanic. If we are going to be politically correct shouldn't the statue also include a woman, an American Indian, a fireman of Oriental decent, and on down the line? Maybe these groups do not have as much political clout or as many high priced lawyers and visible mouthpieces to sound off on the talk show circuit about the racist statue of the three white NYC firemen raising the flag as they did on the faithful day.

If we are so concerned about political correctness why stop there? Let's get the chisels out and go do some work on Mount Rushmore and add a few new faces or just replace Tom, George, Abe or Teddy with whatever likeness suits the fickle politically correct crowd. Who cares if we ignore accuracy and steal a few individuals' rightfully earned place in history.

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