Saturday, June 12, 2010

No Lights For Mother Teresa

New York's iconic Empire State Building is alight with controversy, after refusing to illuminate the skyscraper in blue and white, to honour Mother Teresa (on what would've been her 100th birthday this August). The owner says the tower celebrates many cultures with lighting (Easter, the end of Ramadan, Hanukkah, Christmas), but has a specific policy against religious figures or requests by religious groups.
However religious individuals have been posthumously honoured in the past: NY's Cardinal John O'Connor (2000) in red and white; Pope John Paul II (2005) with all lights extinguished; Martin Luther King Jr. with red, black and green. It was all blue for "Old Blue Eyes" Frank Sinatra's death (1998), green for the annual Saint Patrick's Day... even red for the 70th anniversary of the film The Wizard of Oz (in which Dorothy wore ruby slippers). In 2008 a request to mark the US Marine Corps' anniversary was declined (!!!), yet last year it lit up for the 60th anniversary of communist China – a decision as controversial as the current one!
Here in NZ, Auckland City Council learnt this lesson the hard way, when flying flags on the Harbour Bridge. It marked every country's national day, regardless of whether it had any bearing on us. When maori demanded their separatism flag be flown, council chose to fly only the New Zealand one (a decision later overruled for NZ Day by the government, in a 'party loyalty' buy). And the Australian flag appropriately flew alongside ours for Anzac Day.
So 'policy' is ok, but why not a little flexibility? Problem is when that flexibility gets out of hand: like a racially-divisive flag flying in Godzone. Or communism marked in the heart of capitalism... but not the Marines in 'The Land Of The Free And The Home Of The Brave'!

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