NEW YORK – You’ve all seen the photograph.

Taken by the Record of Bergen County, N.J., it shows three New York City firefighters raising an American flag amid the rubble of Ground Zero, where the World Trade Center once stood. It bears a striking resemblance to the flag-raising image at Iwo Jima.

Now, some top officials of the politically correct New York City Fire Department want to enshrine the image of the three heroes – Dan McWilliams, George Johnson and Billy Eisengrein – as a 19-foot bronze memorial statue.

But, there will be one noticeable difference in the memorial – instead of three white firefighters, it will show them as multicultural, one white, one black and one Hispanic.

The idea has, not surprisingly, prompted controversy on talk shows and local newspapers.

Critics point out the memorial would revise history in an effort to make a political point about cultural and racial diversity.

Of course, that’s true. Yet, there is a much larger issue at stake going virtually unnoticed in all the ensuing hubbub.

The purpose of “celebrating diversity” and promoting “multiculturalism,” we’re told, is to unify society – to downplay differences between people.

But, once again, this ill-conceived idea demonstrates just how terribly divisive such attempts are. They serve exactly the opposite purpose.

The beauty of the original photo, disseminated to news organizations around the world by the Associated Press, was its ability to unite all Americans – to touch our hearts, to move us emotionally, to rally us around the flag.

The heavy-handed effort inspired by New York City politicians to change the reality of the actual historical event has divided New Yorkers and other Americans over a racial issue that was non-existent until they created it.

This is what so frequently happens when the quota police step in.

On Sept. 11 and in its aftermath, Americans of all races came together to grieve, to support one another, to repair, to rebuild and to fight the evil that was perpetrated against this country.

Only true racists – which is what the quota police are – would dare to inject race into this tragedy.

The very people who claim to be so desirous of putting racism behind us are the very people who turn out to be so self-conscious about race they cannot help but make it an issue 24 hours a day, seven days a week – even in times of somber national reflection and war.

How stupid are these people? How racist?

They are going to take our minds off the horrific events of Sept. 11 and begin dividing up Americans into racial groups by intentionally rewriting an historical event.

Will such a memorial ever serve its stated purpose when it has been intentionally politicized and racially charged?

And think about this: The memorial, as I mentioned earlier, is to be cast in bronze. What color is bronze? That’s right. It’s bronze. It’s not white. It’s not brown. It’s not black. It’s bronze.

So, how do you differentiate skin color in a bronze statue?

There’s only one way – by playing up physical racial stereotypes of imaginary people in the memorial.

Only raw-bone racists of the worst kind would even imagine or consider doing something like that in such an important national symbol.

There’s only one conclusion you can draw from such blatant racism and lunacy – people behind such actions know exactly what they are doing. They are intentionally dividing up America into groups and classes to suit their own political purposes. It’s part of an insidious plan. They have most to fear when Americans unite – when we look at one another only as individual Americans rather than special-interest groups.

It’s sickening, but true. That’s why this symbolic gesture is so important. That’s why people in New York are so upset by this. That’s why this controversy is dominating talk programs.

This is an insult to those who gave their lives Sept. 11 – especially the firefighters who didn’t look around at the racial characteristics of the victims before plunging headlong into the towering infernos of the World Trade Center. Neither did they take the time to ensure that quotas of whites, blacks and Hispanics were all risking their lives in carrying out their duty.

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