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Libertas in America

By Carol Harada

She started as an inspiration. A Frenchman had his heart pierced by the grandeur and beauty of the Nubian monuments at Abu Simbel in Egypt. Then he found his muse – a peasant woman, Egyptian, Muslim, dark. He decided to place the peasant woman with regal dignity as a colossal guardian at Port Said, at the opening of the Suez Canal. He worked and worked, but Egypt rejected her, now named ‘Libertas.’

Nevertheless, she persisted. And so did Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, her designer. She was destined for something greater.

Time and tide shifted. And she eventually became our beloved Lady Liberty, gifted to America by France in 1886, to honor the special relationship of our two nations built by kindred revolutions. Since then she has graced New York harbor, welcoming people from all over to join our experiment in plural culture and democracy.

Over the years, wars and floods of refugees have placed extreme pressure on her. She witnessed the Twin Towers falling nearly at her feet. Nevertheless, she persisted. The torch is held high. She stands firm, a beacon. She holds steady the tablet evoking our laws. And we – all except the indigenous people of Turtle Island and the Africans brought in chains – have come here seeking asylum, a better life, a place for self-determination and reinvention. At one time or other, we were the vilified newcomers. But there was always room for more, a generous chamber of the heart.

In the body of America, we need a continual supply of fresh blood. There is the forgetting disease that easily passes through the generations once we’ve landed here. The dream of America – a better place, a chance at prosperity, freedom to choose how to live, how to worship, whom to love – is carried by newcomers. We who’ve been here a long time can take it all for granted, but immigrants bring all of who they are and the reminder of the greatness this country aspires to be. In contrast to what they’ve left behind.

#45 keeps trying to close borders to Muslims. The people resist. Judges agree that to single out a person by religion is wrong. Protectors at airports lay down picket signs to form makeshift prayer mats for Muslim brothers and sisters. They form a protective circle around their fellow humans. And although she went dark on March 8, perhaps in solidarity on International Women’s Day, Lady Liberty still presides over New York Harbor. Perhaps she is relieved that we are finally catching the fire to continue, to lead the way home.

We live in dangerous times. Nonetheless, we persist.

About the writer

Carol Harada is dedicated to fostering creativity and healing, and the shared territory of spiritual practice. She’s grateful to live in San Francisco and write in the company of Laguna Writers. For more, see and

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