Thursday, July 03, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

Edward Berenson, the director of the Institute of French Studies at New York University, writes in today's NY Times about the Statue of Liberty, and the story behind this marvelous gift to America.

We Americans have come to see Lady Liberty much as Emma Lazarus described her in "The New Colussus" - as a beacon of refuge to immigrants and exiles. Standing in New York Harbor, the entry point for millions of immigrants to this country, the association in our minds is quite understandable.

But it does miss the point a bit. She is, after all, the Statue of Liberty.

Here in Gitmo nation, where elections are stolen and habeus corpus can be voided by Executive order; your privacy may be invaded by the government without cause or judicial review; where waterboarding may not be torture and torture may be okay anyway; where wars are started on the basis of deliberate lies and the liars go unpunished and where the Justice department itself enables and promotes this injustice, you would think we would cherish her as a reminder of what we have lost by negligence at the start of the new millenium.

Berenson, who is writing a book about the statue, explains that the statue was conceived in 1865 as a tribute to the Union's Civil War victory, which secured the promise of liberty in America, and also as a rebuke to the dictatorship of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte (Emperor Napoleon III). By the time the statue was complete, Bonaparte had been deposed and France returned to republican government, but the statue continues to speak to the French, who have not forgotten the importance of liberty.

Have a safe and happy Fourth!

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