Published May 13, 2010
Last year, the management of the Empire State Building stunned New Yorkers when they decided to honor the 60th anniversary of the 1949 Maoist Communist Revolution by illuminating the tower in red. The decision drew the protest of dozens of human rights activists who took issue with the management’s decision to honor an oppressive totalitarian regime, and U.S. Congressman Peter King said it was a “sad day for New York.”
This year, the management has declined a request to illuminate the building in blue and white to commemorate what would have been the 100th birthday of Mother Teresa even though the U.S. Postal Service is honoring the former nun with a new postage stamp.
This morning I called the Empire State building so they could explain why they decided to honor a communist state responsible for causing the death of millions of their own people, but not a Catholic nun who won the Nobel Peace Prize who spent 45 years saving lives. After all, at the time of her death, Mother Teresa’s charity was operating 610 missions in 123 countries.
Although I called several times, I could not reach Melanie Maasch, Director of Brand Development and Public Relations, but I did receive a call from Daniel Hernandez, a public relations representative working for an outside firm hired by the Empire State Building. Mr. Hernandez insisted that “there is no issue here,” and told me that his firm had been directed not to “comment on anything involving this story.”
I told Mr. Hernandez I disagreed with him that there was no issue here, and that in a free society like the United States it was the free press that decides whether or not there is an issue or a story to be written, not public relations officers.
“Obviously it’s an issue or I wouldn’t be calling you,” I told him during a telephone interview this morning.
“Who decides when to illuminate the building?”
“There’s a committee.”
“Who’s on that committee and how many people are on it?”
“I can’t tell you that.”
“Why? I’m just asking a general question about how the Empire State Building works.”
“I know, but you’re asking in relation to this story, the story about the lights, and as I told you, we’re not commenting on that story because we don’t feel there’s any issue here.”
“Don’t you think that’s kind of ironic?
“What do you mean?
“Well, you won’t respond to the free press about a story that accuses your organization of honoring a dictatorship. I mean, I kind of feel like I’m dealing with a dictatorship now. You’re telling me – a journalist – there’s no story as if you can dictate the news to the press and then you refuse to tell me anything as if you’re above explaining it.”
“I’m only telling you what I’ve been directed to say.”
“But there has to be an answer, there has to be a reason for all of this. Why can’t you just tell me and justify the committee’s position?”
“I’m only telling you what I’ve been directed to say.”
When Mr. Hernandez finally hung up, I stared dumbfounded at my BlackBerry Storm and wondered if I’d just lost contact with a spokesman for the Empire State Building management committee or the People’s Republic of China’s Central Committee.
Reportedly, last year, the building’s manager, Joseph Bellina called the lighting of the Empire State Building in red a high honor and even said he was proud of the relationship between “our countries and our people.”
Chinese Consul General Peng Keyu then pulled the switch to turn on the lights and said he was “honored and delighted.”
As I read this story online, I couldn’t help but wonder something. If the Third Reich had survived World War II, would the Empire State Building have felt “honored” to illuminate the building in red to commemorate the night Adolf Hitler burned the Reichstag to the ground and started a Nazi revolution in Germany?
Would anyone be proud of the relationship between our countries and our people then? I highly doubt it. For some reason, (and I have to imagine that reason is the indoctrination of ultra-leftism at American universities and from Hollywood), we have conveniently forgotten about the brutality and human rights violations committed by communist states. Somewhere along the line communism became heroic and even fashionable.
If that seems like a stretch, check out the T-shirts produced by popular rock band Rage Against the Machine that champion Che Guevara.
Apparently, fascist dictatorships are evil, but communist ones are acceptable, and that kind of rationale in itself is unacceptable. In reality, Communism has been responsible for the slavery and oppression of hundreds of millions of innocent people. That’s why citizens of many communist states like China, Cuba and the former Soviet Union risk their lives to escape.
Communism in all forms is evil and should never, ever be honored under any circumstances. To honor communism is to honor evil.
I would ask the Empire State Building ‘committee’ – whoever they are – to reverse their decision or at least respect the free press by explaining their decision. It is only appropriate that New York City, the original arrival point for so many immigrants seeking asylum and freedom to honor a woman whose mission was love and not hate.
Jeffrey Scott Shapiro is an investigative reporter and former Washington, D.C. prosecutor who is now the National Organizer of HONOR FREEDOM an organization dedicated to promoting democracy abroad.
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