Liberty is the prevention of control by others.
This requires self-control and, therefore,
religious and spiritual influences;
education, knowledge, well-being.
—Lord Acton 1887
At a time when liberty and freedom are under attack in this country as never before, it was a welcome breath to see this sweeping footage of the Statue of Liberty put up on youtube this morning, as Obama announced that he would like to re-open public access to Liberty’s crown:
With this move the Obama administration hopes a message will be sent to the world, that “the path to the light of liberty is open to all.”
“Lady Liberty”, has always been a symbol of freedom and democracy, that’s what makes her beautiful. She reminds us that the very nature of liberty is bred of self control and self taming beliefs, the ability to look beyond our own greed and accomplishments to the needs of those around us.
In the culture war between self and others, she pleads with us to rise above our petty natures by her example:
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-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
(The New Colossus–By Emily Lazarus 1883)
Looking outward with her searching gaze, she seems to speak to the heart of hopeful immigrants, but her message is first to us. Her stern face and outward dress derive from the Roman goddess Libertas, symbol of freedom from slavery, oppression and tyranny. Her image, caught in motion, doesn’t stand still in hesitation or waiting for direction at rigid attention, but with the free motion of an individual, a leader, is constantly pressing forward, crushing broken shackles at her feet.
Her wish is our wish, to be free. In her hands, she reminds us how the nation’s liberty is kept, with the torch of spiritual enlightenment held aloft for guidance in one hand and tightly grasping the tablet of knowledge in the arm of the other. These are the keys which ensure continued free exercise of liberty.
Sam Adams, recognized as the father of the American Revolution, noted this about human nature:
“A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy… While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but once they lose their virtue, they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader…
If virtue and knowledge are diffused among the people, they will never be enslaved. This will be their great security.”
As much as I applaud the possibility of seeing the spacious views from atop Liberty’s crown, whether that wish becomes a practical reality or not is immaterial. She already sends, and will continue to send, the message to the world that the path of liberty is open to all.
March on, Lady Liberty.