Libertas was the Roman goddess of liberty. She was often portrayed with a pileus on her head, a felt cap worn by freed slaves in Rome. The goddess Libertas served as the inspiration for 18thand 19thcentury representations as an allegorical symbol for freedom in an ideal system of governance. She is on the Great Seal of France, created in 1848. She was on the “heads” side of American coins well into the 20thcentury.

And she served as the inspiration for Frederic-Auguste Bartholde as he designed his statue, Liberty Enlightening the World– our Statue of Liberty. In her left hand, Bartholde placed a tabula ansata (an allegory for the rule of law) with an inscription of the date of the U.S. Declaration of Independence in roman numerals. It associates the date of our Declaration of Independence with the concept of liberty. In her right hand is a torch, held above her head, representing progress. A broken shackle and chain lay at her feet as she walks forward, in commemoration of the abolition of slavery. Instead of the pileus, Bartholde placed a crown on her head – its seven rays evoking the sun, the seven seas and the seven continents. The crown, along with the torch, were the means by which Liberty enlightened the world.

The Statue was a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States – a memorial to the nation’s independence as well as to the abolition of slavery. Placed on what was at the time called Bedloe’s Island, since renamed Liberty Island, the statue was dedicated on October 28, 1886. All ships arriving in New York had to sail past this personification of the best values inherent in our nation. Meanwhile, nearby on Eliis Island, an immigration processing station was established on January 1, 1892   Twelve million immigrants passed through its halls while it was open – from 1892 to 1954 – my parents being among those seeking new life, new hope, on these shores. In 1903, a bronze tablet bearing the text of Emma Lazarus’s poem, “The New Colossus”, written in 1883, was mounted inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. The poem had originally been written to raise money for the construction of the Statue’s pedestal.

Emma Lazarus’s poem contains these famous, poignant words: “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.” These words were inscribed on our Lady of Enlightenment, a Lady perpetually gazing out on ships filled with immigrants on their way to Ellis Island, her outstretched arm promising protection, an icon of compassion for these newcomers.

My parents sailed into N.Y. harbor on the USS Eisenhower in 1950, turning their backs on the horror and conflagration that was World War II and the Nazi scourge, eyes forward, focussed on a future they hoped would be filled with new beginnings, new life. In due course, they became citizens, voted, worked hard, paid taxes, contributed to social security – became a productive component in the fabric of this society.

Recently, we have heard reports and seen photos of the squalid conditions at migrant centers along the southern border of this country. Reports describe standing-room only cells, detainees without showers and hot meals, and children caged like animals. What kind of society allows this? What has become of our moral compass? While I, as the daughter of concentration camp survivors, do not use the term concentration camp lightly, these conditions certainly rise to the level of what I would call detention camps. This is not now human beings should be treated – this is not what our country is about – this is not who we, as compassionate beings, are. Is it?

The Statute of Liberty is a symbol of enlightenment. Have we not evolved beyond the brutes we once were? Is there not a torch within each of us, an inner light of empathy that echoes the compassion our Lady Liberty evokes? How can we stand by silently and allow fundamental rights, for which the founders of this country fought, be denied fellow beings?

As a child of survivors, these images of people herded into cages in sub-human conditions – in our country, in this time – are incomprehensible, unfathomable. We must find a voice for those who are voiceless and powerless. We must never allow the light within us, within these individuals, the light held by Liberty, to be extinguished.

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For your family-style  July 4thbarbecue, a recipe for Ranger cookies, a large, hearty cookie containing rolled oats and coconut.

Ranger Cookies

Cream:

2 cups butter

2 cups sugar

2 cups brown sugar

Add, keep creaming:

6 eggs

Add, keep creaming:

2 teaspoons vanilla

4 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

4 cups oats

4 cups corn flakes

1 pound 8 ounces chopped milk chocolate

2 cups sweetened coconut

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

2 Comments

  1. Wonderfully written and beautifully said! You are truly a fabulous writer, Abby! With awe, affection and love, always,
    your fellow blogger and former PHX FA classmate and friend

    Like

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