Thursday, June 29, 2023

The Lazarus Effect


I'm sure you all recognized the lady above, who's been looking out at New York Harbor for some 137 years. And I do hope Debra of She Who Seeks fame is reading this as this lady is more than just a lady but a deity, Libertas, the Roman Goddess of Liberty. (That's right, all you Bible thumpers out there, it's a pagan symbol we've got at our nation's Atlantic Ocean entrance. Deal with it.) The artwork's official title is Liberty Enlightening the World, though we know it more informally as the Statue of Liberty, designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, a gift from France to the United States to commemorate the latter's centennial. Actually, it was a belated birthday gift, as France had a war to fight with Prussia at the time. When it did finally go up, beginning in 1881, it went up first not off the coast of Manhattan but in...

...Paris, where, once completed in 1884, it gave Parisians something to gaze upward at for six months, as their own culture-defining monument was still a few years away (which reminds me, Gustave Eiffel was a very busy man throughout the 1880s, as in addition to his eponymous tower, he also was responsible for Lady Liberty's metal framework.) Eventually, it was dissembled, put in 214 crates, and sent to Bedloe's Island in New York Harbor, where all the bits and pieces were gradually taken...

...out of the crates.

Now, before I go any further, you may be wondering if there's some particular reason I'm telling you all this. After all, I often tie my posts to a particular moment in time, usually a birthday but sometimes a historical event, even an anniversary. Is today the anniversary of the Statue of Liberty's dedication in New York Harbor? No, I'm afraid that's not until October. However, it does have something to do with this month. Keep reading.

One reason the Statue of Liberty remained standing in Paris six months after completion is though France agreed to foot the bill for building the thing and sending it to the United States, the Americans were expected to pay for and construct the pedestal the Roman goddess was slated to stand on. Except nobody at first wanted to pay for it, not Congress nor the state of New York. Eventually newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer led a drive to have the pedestal, what today we would call, crowdsourced. Americans donated small amounts of money that soon became a large amount of money. An auction also was held, and Emma Lazarus, a popular poet of the day, donated a...

...sonnet, the closing lines of which are:

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!

 Now, immigration wasn't on most people's minds when the statue was proposed and constructed. If anything, it had more to do with the Emancipation Proclamation, which had very much impressed a French anti-slavery activist named Édouard René de Laboulaye. The statue was his passion. Though officially a celebration of the USA's centennial, de Laboulaye wanted it to be as much a prize to the North for winning the Civil War as anything that went on in 1776. Unfortunately, de Laboulaye died before the statue was completed, but he got the ball rolling, convincing France's newly elected government--Emperor Napoleon III had just been kicked off his throne--to present Uncle Sam with a symbiotic birthday present, from one republic to another.

If immigration wasn't on most people's mind when the statue was being proposed and built, it was very much on Emma Lazarus' mind. She was Jewish and as such looked askance at the pogroms taking place overseas, knowing her coreligionists needed somewhere to go, and the United States seemed as good, even better, a place than any (Theodor Herzl begged to differ.) So she had an ulterior motive when composing her poem. It didn't stay ulterior for long. Having Lady Liberty overlooking New York Harbor, for no other reason than there was a nice little island there that nobody was using, combined with the massive immigration going on at the time and that would continue going on for decades more, necessitating the opening of nearby Ellis Island, soon made the whole thing seem predestined. As the writer Paul Auster puts it, the statue has become "a symbol of hope to the outcasts and downtrodden of the world."

At this point you may assume my reasons for doing this post are political and that I want to say something positive about immigration. Yes and no. My reasons are indeed political, but while I do have a positive view of immigration--all my ancestors came through Ellis Island--that's not it. Outcasts, however, are very much on my mind.

We now finally come to my own ulterior motive. This is a Pride Month post. New York governor Kathy Hochul recently signed a bill into law that bars the courts of her state from enforcing the laws of other states that might result in a child being taken away if that child's parents bring them to the Empire State seeking gender-affirming care. Hochul further stated: “Now, as other states target LGBTQ+ people with bigotry and fearmongering, New York is fighting back. These new laws will enshrine our state as a beacon of hope, a safe haven for trans youth and their families, and ensure we continue to lead the nation on LGBTQ+ rights."


Beacon of hope? Kind of like a lamp besides a golden door and that's what made me think of Emma Lazarus' poem. "Safe haven" made me think of what the Statue of Liberty has meant to so many people. See how I come up with these posts? One significant difference, however. This time, we're not talking about the outcasts and downtrodden of the world, but rather of large swaths of the United States. Right now it's mostly the T's that needs a safe haven, but if Ron DeSatanic gets in, or Donald Tramp returns, to the White House, and all other members of the party of Lincoln (retroactively) Jefferson Davis solidify their grip on Congress as well as state legislatures across the land, the L's and the G's and the B's and the Q's and the +'s  may need to seek asylum in that state as well. And any other minority and maybe even majority (such as women who want the right to choose what to do with their bodies) group that these modern-day Cossacks target. There may be such an exodus to New York that it makes the wave of immigration of 120 years ago look like those aboard the S. S. Minnow as it set out on its three-hour tour.

Of course, most of these refugees will be coming to New York by land and not sea. No problem. It wouldn't be the first time Lady Liberty was disassembled and moved somewhere else.

Just don't forget the part of that statue that's the most glam.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Quips and Quotations (Patriarchal Succession Edition)


I only remember my father for one month my whole life, when I was 10. And it wasn't until much later in life that I realized, like, he gave me my first basketball and it was shortly thereafter that I became this basketball fanatic. And he took me to my first jazz concert and it was sort of shortly thereafter that I became really interested in jazz and music. So what it makes you realize how much of an impact [even if it's only a month] that they have on you. But I think probably the most important thing was his absence I think contributed to me really wanting to be a good dad, you know? Because I think not having him there made me say to myself, "You know what? I want to make sure my girls feel like they've got somebody they can rely on."

--Barack Obama II, whose parents divorced when he was three, his father returning to his native Kenya, where he went on to become a government economist.   

Monday, June 5, 2023

The Rainbow Connection

Thanks to the Unitarian Universalist church I attend, I was able to participate in my first Pride march, just this past Saturday morning. Note I said "march" and not "parade". I'm told the absence of floats is what makes the semantic difference. Still, from the inside looking out, meaning as I marched, I got to watch the watchers lined up on the sidewalks watching, and quite often cheering, if not me personally then at least everyone in my immediate marching vicinity, it sure seemed like a parade. Whatever you want to call the whole shebang, it disbursed in Voinovich Park, just across the water from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where it gave way to another shebang, with booths and vendors and live music and dancers and drag queens and all kinds of folks taking their turn at the mike on a stage, a fun time had by all. And I really do have to emphasize the "all" part. Despite the best efforts of the DeSantises and Trumps and Boeberts and Taylor Greenes of the world, the existence of LGBTQ people will not be denied, as will neither the existence of non-LGBTQ people who don't mind the existence of LGBTQ people. I couldn't help but walk away, march away, parade away, optimistic.

I'm on the left.

Friday, June 2, 2023

Quips and Quotations (Know the Brill Edition)


I wanted to write for Broadway.

--Lyricist Cynthia Weil, who with husband Barry Mann wrote over 80 songs that charted on the Billboard Top 100, and 25 or so that reached the Top 40, including this one that reached No. 1 in 1965:

As for wanting to write for the Great White Way, Weil at least got to write ABOUT the Great White Way, this song reaching No. 9 in 1963: