Consoling a friend, in Lady Libertys shadow
There, there dear, are you touched? Now then, dont cry. This was supposed to be a nice outing for us while visiting Manhattan. Theyre just words, after all.Yes, I know, they are beautiful words. But how again did Emma Lazarus write them, back in 1883?… and her nameMother of Exiles. From her beacon-handGlows world-wide welcome Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp! cries sheWith 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.But they dont mean anything anymore, except to the sentimental. There simply isnt enough room here like there used to be. There cant be an open invitation to come here. I have to admit, it is amazing to see how many people line up to go and look at her every day. Even ironic, wouldnt you say? Its a big crowd, in a big city, buying tickets to get on a sightseeing boat for a 10-minute ride to stand at her feet. Its a short ride, but so many people! Thats why it takes most of a day to take the tour, I suppose.You wait in line to get on the ferry. You wait in line to climb the pedestal on which she stands. You wait in line to get back on the boat returning to the dock. Its remarkable the effort we put in to have a quick look at Lady Liberty.Perhaps youre right. I hadnt thought of it that way. It might be encouraging that so many people believe that there is still something worthwhile to see here. But if there is, I have to admit that its not readily apparent to me. So many people look at her, read those beautiful words youre choked up over and cant wait to get in another line for a hot dog or to see what they have in the gift shop, maybe a key chain so that someday they can remember they were here.Shes hollow, you know. Theres a diagram in this brochure about her. It shows the cold steel structure holding up the thin copper skin and flowing robes that we see. Theres a stairway up the center of her. You used to be able to climb them right up into her crown, but theyre worried about bombs now. We have too many enemies who would love to blow her up to make a political statement. Its a shame.Thats the spirit! All the tears are gone now! You see, there is no reason to get all worked up. Theyre only words.No, no, dont apologize. Lots of people get nostalgic here. They know that their great-grandparents, or even their great-great-grandparents, streamed past this girl on the way to Ellis Island and then to new lives beyond, so many years ago. How can a soul not cry to think of the hardships they endured so that we can stand here today in admiration, with an image of her on our brand new T-shirts, freer and more prosperous than all the rest of the world, giving thanks to the god of our choice?Its unfortunate; the Great Lady is a victim of her own zeal. She has given birth to too many new lives. Not that shes selfish. No, no. She would proudly mother more. Its the children of her childrens children who have forgotten about the bond she formed with her offspring, who came to know freedom through her womb. Far removed from the great days that brought tremendous hope to those unwashed infants, the distant relatives of today worry more about their inheritance. They dont believe there is enough to go around. Its self-preservation, I guess.Oh, its not a big deal. We sterilize her now so that she cant give birth freely like she used to. What of it? I hear they do the same thing in China. We can set up policies to adopt the ones we want. We can make sure they all speak English when they get here so that they can understand us. Its probably better that way.Well, yes, of course, dear, I worry about her. She was born to give new life. It might kill her to take this purpose away. I dont know what shell do. But shes old. Shes gotten us this far. Times have changed, and we need to do things differently now. We simply dont have the room to accommodate everyone who needs to be saved from oppression much less the many more who just want to taste the sweet milk of freedom. We cant afford to govern ourselves simply on principle or ideals anymore. Ah, look now. Ive done it. Youre crying again. There, there. Its not like were ever going to forget about independence and freedom. I dont think we need actual immigrants fleeing tyranny from all points on the globe, coming here to forge the iron promise of opportunity into the tools of prosperity, in order to provide us a living example of the power of true liberty. Certainly we can conceptualize freedom without actually seeing it in action, cant we?Shes still a great monument, maybe even our greatest. Thats why we stand in line with the masses and pass through metal detectors, allow them to search through our bags and stand still for pat-downs so that we can go see her in all of her glory. Well never let the terrorists tear her down!Come now, sweetheart, it isnt all as you are picturing it now. Its been a long day, and youre tired. You could probably stand for a bite to eat. Come on. Theres a little place over there where we can get a hot dog. Well go by the gift shop and look at those Statue of Liberty key chains I was telling you about. We ought to pick up a postcard or two as well.
Roger Marolt wonders what happens to ideals when they become only that. Contact him at email@example.com.