It\’s been said that New York, unlike Washington DC, is not a very good city for monuments. We\’re more of a \”living city.\” Grant\’s Tomb is on the other side of the West Side Highway, and our nations greatest monument is, well, out in the harbor. No disrespect intended at all. We love our Lady Liberty, we just decided not to put her in the middle of Times Square. Which is probably a good thing for her because she would have since been swallowed by glowing lights and hotels 4 score taller.
There she stands in the harbor holding a torch to light the way – or to represent the sun, which was deamed a beacon of reason. (A pamphlet published by the US Congress in 1977 even identifies the red and white stripes of our flag as representing the rays of the sun – and the original 13 colonies.)
And she herself is Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, personal freedom to be more specific. So, I think it a very bold, if not a contradictory, move to erect the icon of a woman to represent this country\’s greatest political achievement – at a time when women were still without the equal rights of men. And then a few years later be enscribed with a poem by another woman (Emma Lazarus) which took a line to thumb her nose at her ancient male counterpart (The Colossus at Rhodes).
\”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.\”
The Colossus at Rhodes was a statue of the sun god Helios – \”the all-seeing\”, and who the Statue of Liberty now holds in the palm of her hand. Right on!
So, as I watch the fireworks bloom over \”Liberty Enlightening the World\” tonight – I\’ll think of the goddess and all her sisters hence: Marianne of France, Aura the Finnish Maiden, Brittania of Britain, and Columbia for America – and to, of all the women who took her as their inspiration and paved the road for my personal freedom and equality and the shape of my mythology.
Happy Independence Day! Lisa