The Statue of Liberty (a.k.a. Liberty Enlightening the World) is a grand, independent, and inspiring monument. She welcomes visitors proudly by embracing and representing America’s democratic values. If Ms. Liberty could speak, how would she react to our political reality? As the Roman goddess of freedom Libertas, her inspiration is difficult to recognize and identify today.
From the National Park Service: “In 1886, The Statue of Liberty was a symbol of democratic government and Enlightenment ideals as well as a celebration of the Union’s victory in the American Civil War and the abolition of slavery. Eduard de Laboulaye, the French political thinker, U.S. Constitution expert, and abolitionist, who first proposed the idea of a great monument as a gift from France to the United States was a firm supporter of President Abraham Lincoln and his fight for abolition. Laboulaye saw abolition not only as a way to eliminate immorality, but also as a way to protest repressive tendencies in France.”
Ms. Liberty, show us how to be better.
My art practice investigates symbols of influence and power that impact perception. The Statue of Liberty was dedicated as a gift from the people of France to the United States. She stands stoically grasping a torch and tablet inscribed with date of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. The statue represents freedom serving as a beacon welcoming immigrants. President Donald J. Trump has called Mexican immigrants “rapists,” asked for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” and referenced Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations as “shithole countries.” Common shipping label stickers with the phrase “HANDLE WITH CARE FRAGILE THANK YOU” have been repurposed on a cardboard silhouette. The words serve as a protective layer in an attempt to secure the fundamental values of democracy.
Words from poet Emma Lazarus’ The New Colossus:
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 Statue of Liberty is a symbol of hope and freedom. As words turn to rhetoric than to hate, our country must protect and secure the ideals of Ms. Libertas. Her crown with seven spikes represents the seven oceans and continents of the world. This universal concept knows no boundaries or walls. Time’s up!