At Liberty’s Back

I keep having flashbacks to Stephen Colbert circa early 2001: “…and votes are still being counted in Florida!” –

I’m not sure I can articulate why I was drawn to Liberty State Park, beyond the obvious symbolism, but with votes still being counted, and the anxiety building in my body, I needed to get out somewhere. I wasn’t up for anything strenuous after yesterday’s hike, but I needed to walk off yesterday’s stiff muscles.

There were cormorants, gulls, terns, and plenty of Canada geese, lots of families out with children, and some cyclists and joggers, too. Those onion towers of Ellis Island’s red brick immigrant processing center were beautiful in the late afternoon light.

But I couldn’t stop turning again and again, towards the image of Lady Liberty’s back. She’s not facing Jersey, not facing New York, she’s looking outward. Used to be, she looked outward to welcome ships arriving from across the Atlantic, lifting her lamp beside the golden door, lighting the way for those yearning to breathe free. But the huddled masses haven’t passed beneath the towers of Ellis Island for decades.

The metaphors practically write themselves. Liberty stands with her back to us because the liberty, justice, freedom and democracy aren’t here anymore. Germany, France, Spain, the Czech Republic. We used to welcome their oppressed. Now the light of reason shines from there, not here. Of course, Europe has it’s problems, but in this time of pandemic, of global climate change, that’s where the real enlightenment is.

It’s been a rough week. Even with hope on the horizon, it’s hard to see how we find our way back to who we once were, the soul of America’s dreams.

But the sunset was nice.

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