Perhaps We Should Call It The Statue Of Security
Nearly 2 million tourists, many from overseas, descend on Liberty Island each year to commune with that green icon of American freedom, the Statue of Liberty. Most of them will actually get to see the monument—as long they put out their cigarettes, hand over any contraband coffees or pastries purchased at the Liberty Island Café, and maneuver their way through an extensive security gauntlet. In 2007 the path to Liberty runs past a battalion of armed guards.
Visiting in October, I was greeted by hours-long security lines at two sets of metal detectors—one gauntlet to board a ferry to Liberty Island, another feeding into two EntryScan bomb/narcotics sniffing machines near the actual statue. A scrolling marquee along the bottom of a TV monitor illuminated the motto of the New York City Security State: “See something, say something.” Just in case the imminent threat of terrorist attack wasn’t clear, plaques indicated that the statue’s monument base closed for almost three years after the September 11 attacks.
Even at the Liberty Museum in the monument base, the Founders’ vision of liberty is conspicuously absent, unless you count a psychedelic nude painting. (“The artist’s daring expression of naked Lady Liberty symbolizes the desire for the world to return to the peace and innocent days of Adam and Eve.”) Instead there’s a wall dedicated to “the price” Lady Liberty (“born a celebrity”!) has “paid” for her fame, as perfidious “manufacturers around the world have not hesitated to use and abuse the Statue to sell everything from cigars to soap.” So this is the modern Statue of Liberty: exploited by soulless capitalists, famous for doing nothing, an oxidized copper Paris Hilton with the good sense to wear long skirts in public.
A fairly accurate representation of what’s happening to liberty nationwide, don’t you think ?