I took this photo back in 2010. To me it is an important symbol – a statement of philosophy.
Statements and philosophies are extremely important. They are symbols of intent and dictate what happens next.
They guide minds down pathways.
It was given to the American people by France (maybe partly as a snub to Britain) as a symbol of freedom. It depicts a Roman Goddess breaking free of chains. It is symbolic of the USA’s breaking away from Britain and also the emancipation of slavery.
It is situated on Liberty Island and is a powerful symbol of liberty and freedom.
It is adorned with a powerful poem written by Emma Lazarus:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
The line that is best remembered is the one starting with ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’
It was a statement of intent. Here was a welcoming land of freedom and space who would welcome all manner of poor immigrants and afford them the opportunity to make a new prosperous life.
How times change.
I’m not sure that the Native Americans, as the endemic population, quite shared that sentiment.
These days liberty has come to mean something different – something involving guns, selfishness and intolerance.
I’m not so sure that I like that ‘new American’ version of freedom. It seems to value the liberty of one person above that of others and the environment.
To me liberty is finding space to be yourself with harming others or the planet. Within a crowded environment and threatened ecosystem there is a compromise. I value tolerance.
If you want true liberty you need to live on your own.
So there is much to discuss about the symbols and philosophy tied up within that statue – and whether that poem still has relevance today.
Is America a symbol of freedom and justice? I think many would view it as the opposite – an unwelcoming place, full of indoctrination, fanaticism, superstition and division – a nation that seeks to dominate, control, subjugate and interfere.
Symbols are important.