Reflecting On Lady Liberty

By on July 6, 2018

Statue of LibertyLet’s start this off by going to one of my favorite resources, the Merriam-Webster dictionary and defining the word Liberty:

  • 1 : the quality or state of being free:
    • a: the power to do as one pleases 
    • b:freedom from physical restraint
    • c: freedom from arbitrary or despotic control
    • d: the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges
    • e: the power of choice
  • 2:  a a right or immunity enjoyed by prescription or by grant 
    • permission especially to go freely within specified limits 
  • 3 : an action going beyond normal limits: such as:
    • a breach of etiquette or propriety 
    • risk, chance 
    • a violation of rules or a deviation from standard practice 
    • a distortion of fact 

In the United States of America we enjoy our Liberty. Our country was founded on it. The Statue of Liberty is a great icon/symbol of it. As it says on the National Park Service website: “The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World” was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the United States and is recognized as a universal symbol of freedom and democracy. The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on October 28, 1886. It was designated as a National Monument in 1924.” Standing on Liberty Island, she overlooks the New York Harbor. I don’t think it’s much of a reach to say that she is a sign of hope for many.

For those of us in the tri-state area, she’s just there. She’s a part of the landscape. We see her as background on the news. Most times we don’t give her much thought.

That changed this Independence Day when Therese Patricia Okoumou took to scaling the Statue as a form of protest against immigration policies in the U.S. As the news cameras focused on her for several hours, it made me really think about the statue and what it means.

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Let me make a few things clear:

I admire her for taking a stand. For truly taking a risk to get a message out there. I don’t feel that this was a publicity stunt, but something that she felt compelled to do. (Just as I often feel compelled to write and get what is stewing my soul and my brain onto the [digital] page.)

I think her message could have been much stronger. (Which is why I suspect this wasn’t completely planned and that the group that she was initially protesting with, Rise and Resist, did not know what she was planning.) The message on her shirt was noticeable, but if truly planned and thought out a banner (such as one that the group had used on the ground) would have been more effective.

I am aware that she put other lives at risk and inconvenienced others. I DO have a serious issues with that, if she is found guilty in court for the misdemeanors she has charged been charged with, I hope that the “punishment fits the crime.” Community service immediately comes to my mind as well as some sort of financial reparation.

As a result of this protest, I’ve been thinking more and more about the Statue of Liberty (which I have visited once, but my son has not and that is something that needs to be changed). She has been standing there for 132 years and we should not take her for granted. For me, she is a symbol of freedom; a reminder that I live in a land where I CAN speak my mind. A place where we can disagree. (Although I wish we could do it more civilly. Just because I believe A and you think B, doesn’t mean we can’t be friends and agree to disagree.) She reminds me that this is a place where justice has a chance to prevail. (We are NOT a perfect union; so justice will NOT always prevail.) She sheds a light, not just on the harbor, but on our country; a country that is enlightened. (Not always and not everyone, but I still have hope.) She is welcoming. (Read Emma Lazarus’ full poem, “The New Colossus“, which was written to raise funds for the statue and has been part of the pedestal on which she stands since 1903.) For me she is the embodiment of history and hope.

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The 4th of July has come and gone. The parades and fireworks are over. There may still be barbecues to be had before the week is over and becomes history. Before a new week dawns and Independence Day 2018 is just a memory; think about Lady Liberty. What she means to you; what she means to us as a country and what she says to the world.

I think she does us proud.

Beth Shorten is a life-long resident of Verona. For five years, she has been chronicling life here on her personal site, Bfth’s Boring Blog.

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  1. Betty C.

    July 9, 2018 at 9:23 am

    “inconvenienced others”? I enjoyed your article and agree with many of your points, but in the spirit of “agree to disagree”, I ask you to reflect as to how you would feel if you were asked to leave the park on the day that you finally brought your son to visit this landmark. As you state, we live close enough to take Lady Liberty for granted. I imagine that there were many visitors that day who made financial sacrifices and came great distances to be there only to have their day ruined by this ineffective and selfish gesture.

  2. Beth

    July 9, 2018 at 12:07 pm

    I respect your agree to disagree and I’ll admit that if I were asked to leave the park (especially if I had traveled a distance) I’d be pretty…to put it nicely, TICKED off.

    However, I HOPE (and not going to say disagree, because I’m not 100% on this) that the gesture was NOT ineffective nor do I think it was selfish. But all that is a matter of opinion.

    Thank you for you comments and I ESPECIALLY appreciate your willingness/openness to agreeing to disagree. (Coincidentally, my personal blog post for the day is about compromise.)

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