One of the most comic irrationalities to come out of the Vietnam War was that a village had to be destroyed in order to save it. Half a world away, the comment has become something of a joke ever since epitomizing government stupidity; however, as similar logic begins to be used here all in the name of national security, such an observation won’t seem as amusing anymore.
Most responding to my column about efforts to permanently bar the American people from the upper reaches of the Statue of Liberty agreed with my position. However, one response reflected the kind of thinking that will not only end up getting the remainder of our freedoms taken away from us but also lectured as to why it is our civic duty to have a smile across our face while it is happening.
In the response, the government toady writes that, since the Statue of Liberty is a target because of its symbolic value as an artistic representation of America’s values, any and all measures should be taken to protect the landmark.
However, since Lady Liberty’s function is primarily symbolic, by closing her off aren’t we sending the message to the world that liberty is not an inalienable and immutable but rather contingent upon circumstances and the malleable whims of those holding power.
If the American people so easily cede control over something symbolic, what is to prevent them from handing over the more practical manifestations of their liberties should authorities whip them into a sufficient frenzy or panic?
For example, in his conclusion, this Department of Homeland Security booster remarks, “If it is OVERDONE, tis better me thinks so long as no place is given to the evil ones.”
Should we place armed troops on every street corner allowed to manhandle passerbys at random? Better yet, should entire neighborhoods be relocated to designated civic detention facilities where authorities can keep better tabs on the population and thus protect them better; after all, if it prevents terrorism according to the Overdone Doctrine, on what grounds may we object?
Don’t think proponents of security beyond that which is necessary wouldn’t be above curtailing those rights that have little bearing whatsoever on preventing mass destruction.
The critic writes, “To use her as your soapbox issue to point your finger and denigrate government simply out of your own opinion of its motivation is counterproductive, and limited it its veracity.”
Frankly, the government denigrates itself when it directs so much effort at closing down one of America’s most cherished monuments rather than closing down the border. Maybe if the government did its job there, the Statue of Liberty wouldn’t need to be closed.
Yet, to those yearning not to live free but rather to have every facet of their lives monitored by authorities, pointing out such shortcomings and inconsistencies that compromise both our safety and our quality of life is no longer characterized as the act of a concerned citizen but rather as deeds “counterproductive” that “undermine the population’s confidence”. In other words, freedom of expression is something that will have to be curtailed as a threat to national security even though pointing out the shortcomings and fallacies of those wielding power threatens no one other than those incompetently wielding the power the people have been gracious enough to grant them under the Constitution.
As an American icon, one’s attitude towards the management of the Statue of Liberty says a great deal about one’s perspective. Either one believes in the basic principles the Statue stands for and believes the American people should be granted access to it or one believes that people are better off having the government control the minutest details of their lives and that common citizens are not good enough to caresses this special lady.
Frederick Meekins is an independent theologian and social critic. Frederick holds a BS in Political Science/History, a MA in Apologetics/Christian Philosophy from Trinity Theological Seminary, and a PhD. in Christian Apologetics from Newburgh Theological Seminary.