Rant: The Statue of Security

You won't find much liberty at Lady Liberty.

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.

The statue interior, including the crown, is still off limits. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wants to reopen it —evidence, clearly, of a pre–9/11 mind-set. Then again, Code Orange apparently has been the norm on Liberty Island for almost a century. A 1918 poster, prominently displayed in the base museum, depicts German planes blowing Lady Liberty’s head into the water, her torch hand torn off jaggedly, as though she were a bit-part actress in Hostel.

You can still catch a glimpse of the interior, though. Our noble protectors have installed a clear window in the observation deck’s inner sanctum upon which the lady’s feet rest, allowing tourists to at least look at the metallic innards that they used to be able to climb seven years ago. Yes, Liberty now has a glass ceiling. Progress! Security!

During my visit, a group of elderly World War II vets festooned with embroidered patches reading “POW” and “Combat Wounded Veteran” were struggling to get through a secondary screening in a tent outside the statue. “No exceptions to the secondary security screening,” a burly officer growled as the EntryScan 3 puffed in the background. If these men want to visit the emblem of what they bled for on some godforsaken battlefield, the hats, belts, jackets, canes, and insignia pins all need to be removed and examined…again.

Two weary veterans demurred and were given a single stool to share between them while their comrades made the tour. Honoring veterans, U.S. Park Police style. It seemed ludicrously disrespectful, but perhaps Homeland Security had received a tip about a recently activated Al Qaeda sleeper cell recruited at Guadalcanal in ’42. Maybe someone saw something/said something. You don’t want some modern Fifth Column to blow off Lady Liberty’s arm, do you?

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.

I found a children’s book in the gift shop that contains a handy glossary. It defines liberty as “the freedom to choose your work, your religion and your friends.” In a perfect world, we’d chop that definition down to the first four words. Any kid paying attention would notice that Liberty Island exudes anything but.

Shawn Macomber
, who blogs at shawnmacomber.com, is writing a book on the global class war.

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  • Joe Allen||

    Penn Jillette endorses Ron Paul!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5QK2wPR8IpQ

  • ||

    Shawn Macomber, who blogs at shawnmacomber.com, is writing a book on the global class war.

    Ooh, can't wait for that.

  • svf||

    Penn Jillette: "He's not unelectable if we all vote for him."

    Smartest thing I've heard all day...

  • Rhywun||

    I'm surprised she's not pimping the drug war while she's at it.

  • ||

    The Statue is a gift from French citizens and has come to symbolize hope for naked women everywhere... BOCCE BALLS!!

  • Mister DNA||

    She is French, ya know.

    Maybe we should change her name to the Statue of 9/11 Changed Everything.

  • Paul||

    You can't be in here!!! This is public property!!!

  • ||

    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."

    ...and even political parties!

  • Paul||

    Any kid paying attention would notice that Liberty Island exudes anything but.

    Sounds like an excellent opportunity to take my five-year-old to the Lady. I can show her, in real time, what in hell is wrong with this country by taking her to the very symbol of it.

  • tarran||

    The U.S. government's misuse of the image is probably the most disgusting and egregious though.

  • ||

    The very vivid image of some wannabe War-On-Liberty "Hero" punk-ass security guard putting elderly, real-live war heroes through the wringer makes me want to punch the first TSA agent I see.

    I realize I shouldn't be governed by emotions, but that image nearly moves me to angry tears.

  • ||

    Penn Jillette: "He's not unelectable if we all vote for him."

    Silly Penn, so naive.

  • ||


    I realize I shouldn't be governed by emotions, but that image nearly moves me to angry tears.


    Why? Are you an android masquerading as a human?

  • ||

    Tonight on "It's the Mind", we examine the phenomenon of déjà vu, that strange feeling we sometimes get that we've lived through something before.

  • ||

    Ah, the coveted Penn Jillette endorsement. If only Paul had asked Penn to campaign for him--that would've been great. Oprah campaigning for Obama is puerile and only highlights the emptiness of Obama. Penn campaigning for Paul would've been disturbing. . .frightening, even.

  • Russ 2000||

    Fuck that, I wanna see TELLER campaigning for Ron Paul.

  • Anonymoose.||

    Ah, the coveted Penn Jillette endorsement. If only Paul had asked Penn to campaign for him--that would've been great. Oprah campaigning for Obama is puerile and only highlights the emptiness of Obama. Penn campaigning for Paul would've been disturbing. . .frightening, even.

    It would've been great. He would've performed this trick at every Ron Paul event.

  • ||

    """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:"""

    Wow, when you read it by its self, it seems like it was ripped out of some futuristic evil post America novel. But you left out the part where your photo is taken and checked against a database. Maybe you didn't notice the camera, or maybe they stopped since the face recognition stuff has been a bust.

    It's been like that for years now. Originally they had the security in a tent on the pier. They had a cameraIt was probably scareing people away. Scared me away. There is no way I would go to the Statue of Liberty now. They might as well put it in a glass case and ship it to the Smithsonian. Another fine relic of how great we once were.

  • Geotpf||

    Jillette is a well known libertarian (as everybody here should know). He's a fellow at the Cato Institute, for crying out loud. It would news if he endorsed anybody EXCEPT Ron Paul.

  • VM||

    you think so Geotpf? I actually think it's strange he's endorsing (what with RP's distinctly NON libertarian views, and that RP isn't a pro choice guy, a creationist). Or do you think it's the "closest to" type of choice?

  • RudyG||

    Liberty is about authority!

  • Paul||

    I like vu jàdé, that strange feeling that none of this has ever happened before.

  • Geotpf||

    VM-Paul's a libertarian. Now, he's clearly a "right libertarian", and Jillette is clearly a "left libertarian" (or whatever that silly term for such that was invented in the past week is (cosmo-something), although Jillette is probably more a pure libertarian than that term implies), but they are still both libertarians.

  • ||

    And there behind the glass,
    Is a single blade of grass.
    Be careful as you pass!
    Move along, move along.

  • economist||

    "Why? Are you an android masquerading as a human?" I think that what Ayn Randian is saying is that we shouldn't allow our emotions to control us, as they are lower than reason. Nonetheless, I think that in this case reason would require one to be moved to tears.

  • Paul||

    VM-Paul's a libertarian. Now, he's clearly a "right libertarian", and Jillette is clearly a "left libertarian"

    Hey now, [Ron] Paul is a 'right libertarian'. This shortened 'Paul' is wreaking havoc with my blogposts...

  • ||

    I don't think emotions are 'lower' than reason, but they are different.
    You need reason to figure out the world and the people in it, and it's the only tool we have when we need to come to agreement with each other. Emotions (e.g. love, awe, wonder, curiosity) can provide the motivation for wanting to live. Or die, if your value system is really screwed up.

  • ||

    this certainly is a compelling example of why profiling ought not to be out of bounds.

  • ||

    To save the statue we had to destroy what it stands for.

  • Ben Masel||

    Next, they'll ship her to Guantanamo as an illegal combatant. She signaled the 9/11 hijackers with her torch.

  • ||

    As a symbol, Liberty has always irritated me: it gets used by unthinking people who behave like the only place on earth where there were any freedoms is in the USA and that because they have this symbol, and dress her up in a flag, they don't have to do too much to understand the real difficult meanings the symbol stands for. Why not send it back to France?

  • ||

    I understand the Dobbs/ Buchanan '08 transition team is working on a proposal to replace the torch hand with one with its middle finger proudly displayed for all the world to admire.

  • ||

    Jillette is a well known libertarian (as everybody here should know). He's a fellow at the Cato Institute, for crying out loud. It would news if he endorsed anybody EXCEPT Ron Paul.

    This is news because many outside libertarian circles know Jillette for his celebrity, but don't know he's a libertarian. His endorsement of Paul may cause some of those people to look at Paul and libertarianism in a different light.

  • ||

    ...those that are driven to decisions more by emotion than reason, that is.

  • LarryA||

    the motto of the New York City Security State: "See something, say something."

    "Say what you think. See Guantanamo for free!"

    If these men want to visit the emblem of what they bled for on some godforsaken battlefield, the hats, belts, jackets, canes, and insignia pins all need to be removed and examined…again.

    Reminds me of the time Joe Foss was busted at an airport for possession of his Medal of Honor.

    an oxidized copper Paris Hilton with the good sense to wear long skirts in public.

    Which they let you look under.

  • Episiarch||

    Remo Williams didn't have to deal with any of this shit. But it wouldn't have stopped him anyway.

  • VM||

    Episiarch shoots! He scores!!!!! woo hoo!

    +3 reference!

  • Episiarch||

    The Adventure Continues.

  • VM||

    That was a great movie.

    Just for that, WEIBSKOBOLD shall accompany you to Penn and Teller's Vegas show.

  • JC Denton||

    UNATCO is just keeping us safe from the NSF.

  • ||

    """UNATCO is just keeping us safe from the NSF."""

    I'll take the 9mm rounds for 175

  • Billy Beck||

    "I'm made of metal
    My circuits gleam
    I am perpetual
    I keep the country clean"


    (Judas Priest -- "Electric Eye", 1982)

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