I grew up in a commuter town in New Jersey known for its faux-tudor houses, devil-worshipers, and radon.

As a teenager, I spent an inordinate amount of time traipsing up and down Manhattan, taking classes at the Art Students League, and missing the last bus home. I still miss NYC at times, and make sporadic efforts to stay abreast.

This post has nothing to do with dogs, and may be offensive to some. Word to the wise.

It has to do with Ground Zero, or the real estate surrounding it, where a nominally local dispute over the proposed erection of a Muslim community center has lately ignited an international debate.

I don’t intend to rehash it here.

I will only comment on an argument encountered Friday night while wading through the political blogosphere: that had strippers flown the planes that destroyed the World Trade Center, they would not be welcome on such hallowed ground, either.

This is the preferred resolution, it seems, to the conflict created by the widespread insistence in recent days that some undetermined amount of real estate peripheral to Ground Zero be counted as hallowed, despite its meanwhile playing host to strip clubs, peep shows, and off-track betting.

It’s been a while since I lived in the tri-state area, but last time I checked, hallowed ground wasn’t subject to byzantine zoning codes.

hallowed: adj 1. holy, consecrated  2. sacred, revered

Just double-checking. So how does this jibe with accommodating sex shops, lap dances, and gambling?

Let’s see how author and acclaimed journalist Abigail Esman explained it Friday in her Forbes blog Pen & Sword:

Rauf  [the man steering the proposed development]– and others – note that strip joints and OTB offices occupy the space nearby Ground Zero, and argue that this proves, somehow, that the area is not considered “hallowed ground.” This, of course, is idiocy. Strippers didn’t kill 3000 people that day; Muslims did. Strippers don’t threaten to destroy America if we don’t build a temple to nudity where they want us to; Muslims do. Had strippers and gamblers been the ones who plowed their planes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, you can bet they’d not be welcome there now, either.

I forget the Latin term right now for HUH???? But it will come to me.

In any case, I know basing one’s argument on a purely ludicrous hypothesis is not considered entirely kosher among bona fide logicians. And I would note that presuming that one’s opponents spout idiocy falls somewhat short of actually demonstrating it.

I also question her basic presumption. I mean, how totally convinced are we that strippers would be unwelcome? No doubt whatsoever? Not even really kickin’ ones?

Okay, what about cab drivers? If cab drivers had flown planes into the Twin Towers, would they now be unwelcome within a two block radius of the footprint?? You see my dilemma.

As an aside, I do think Esman’s startling hypothesis has the stuff of a really solid premise for old-school science fiction. What if….

This may be the biggest problem with Esman’s red herring–the imagery it conjures, which is both bizarre and distracting, as well as a teensy bit hard to shake. Face it, when your head is spinning with visions of scantily clad terrorists deftly twirling their tassels as they overwhelm the cockpit, focusing on the earnest intent behind words such as these becomes genuinely challenging:

Like the papers that wind whisked that day as far as to downtown Brooklyn, Sabella’s body, it seems, simply blew away. His remains could still be buried in the earth deep below the WTC foundations – or, more likely, they fell as ashes, not so far away–perhaps, indeed, where the Burlington Coat Factory still stands.

…or on the stage of the Pussycat Lounge.

Maybe lower Manhattan’s sex stores, strip club, and OTBs got grandfathered in as acceptable “special uses” on its hallowed ground, sort of like the slaughterhouses within Chicago’s Planned Manufacturing Districts (also most hallowed, by the way).

My own conviction is that there is no graceful way to rationalize declaring the ground in question to be hallowed, when no one has treated it as such before now.

And for the record, I am neither a prude, nor an enemy of the state.

© Ruth Crisler and Spot Check, 2010.