To be a person living in Liberty is to be a conduit for Joy in the universe by just showing up openly, wholeheartedly and truthfully in who you are.
And if you choose to live that way openly and also align yourself with Love and the Universe each and every day, this simple act of deliverance is what we could even call Love…
And that practice can easily become our Destiny as People of the World and Citizens of America and Full Human Beings.
And yes there is an exceptionalism about all this as you can imagine — but that is only a small part of the story of our great nation, because our manifest destiny can only be seen through the lens of what defines each and every one of us.
Now, in America the Statue of Liberty is a defining monument that speaks of our Civilization as an example of Love towards all the immigrants and the huddled masses as seen in the way that was represented through this gift from France to America, commemorating the two nations’ amity, comradeship in the Revolutionary war, and the constant friendship as well as our shared love of freedom.
And long after Lafayette saved the life of George Washington in the battlefield — Lady Liberty was inaugurated in 1886, a year and two decades after Lincoln’s assassination, the successful conclusion of the Civil War and the Great Emancipation proclamation that ended slavery in these United States of America…
Because it was when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war, when he signed the proclamation and declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” This was successfully passed by the United States Senate and ratified the very next year, when eventually, the Emancipation Proclamation led to the proposal and ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which formally abolished slavery throughout the land.
The Thirteenth Amendment, was passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864; by the House on January 31, 1865; and was ratified by the states on December 6, 1865. It abolished slavery “within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Congress required former Confederate states to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment as a condition of regaining federal representation.
As you can imagine Lady Liberty was revolutionary in more ways than one, since it also marked in stone and in a stately & magnificent statue the END OF SLAVERY, the END OF OPPRESSION, and the END OF THE INHUMAN TREATMENT OF ONE MAN OVER ANOTHER.
And by the way — it also marked one of the world’s first, successful crowdfunding projects for a public monument, when through the assistance of the famous poem “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus “Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” that was written for the fundraising campaign, and helped raise over $100,000 in those difficult times.
The money was raised from more than 120,000 donors, including schoolchildren and liberty minded American as well as French citizens who collected their pennies and gave them to cover the cost of a great cause in the name of Liberty, Emancipation and Freedom from the bondage of one man from another in the New World…
At long last Lady Liberty was created & built in Paris. She was then disassembled, crated and shipped to America. She was subsequently installed on a small island from where she has been towering over New York’s harbour and all the millions of immigrants who passed by her, for 135 solid years of liberty advancing all over the world as it towers over Americans’ and of all Peoples’ view of themselves as a Free People the world over, yesterday, today, and God willing tomorrow too.
And as she is presiding over our lives, she witnesses the reverses of progress and the loss of freedom all over the world — yet she gives us all great hope now and forever more so that we can gird ourselves and move our spirit forth in Free Will and Self Determination because that is the only future that humanity deserves to obtain, not just for ourselves, but for our children and for our children’s children as well as for the children of the whole world’s huddled masses of despairing humanity.
Indeed, the statue of Lady Liberty could never have happened without the passage of America from Slavery to Freedom, because she is a symbolic representation of the country’s foremost ideal. The ideal of individual freedom and personal liberty. And it is the premiere value of America, since the value of freedom undergirds many a newspaper article, a church sermon and even a street demonstration, and that has been the case since time immemorial, same as it was the case in ancient Athens and Rome in the past. Yet these ancient freedom loving Republics did not survive the test of time, and were brought down by their failure of imagination to perceive the future and deal with it successfully.
Yet, here in America today — we are able to see the future clearly because of these legendary eclipses of Liberty and the failures of Republican Democratic powers in these ancient Democracies due to the clear lack of responsible Citizenship of the ancient Athenians and the ancient Romans.
And today it is also seen as a clear lack of responsible citizenship when the ideal of Liberty is sometimes invoked whenever someone refuses to wear a face mask during a pandemic and it is used when one refuses to accept a vaccine in the public and personal interest.
And that is OK — yet what most people don’t know that is also important to adhere to the common cause that Liberty comes with Responsibility and that is the sum total of American Citizenship.
That was the mission of America in Afghanistan for the last twenty years where it should have been seen as a sign to the whole world as we built up a nation where we had organized elections, we trained and stood up a brand-new national army, we freed girls to go to school and also freed women to go to the market alone, freed them to go to work and also work in the healing professions within the hospitals that we had built over these last two decades — and yet we foreshook our responsibility to the ideal of Liberty and lost our Courage by letting down our people, our allies and all of the Afghans as we descended into the chaos and vitriol of our own belligerent parties and fratricide that shuttered ancient Roman Republic and let the barbarians rule over her and the known world thus ending Freedom and Citizenship for a thousand years…
Our letting go of our responsibility and courage in maintaining the mission in Afghanistan is of an equal measure to that…
Lack of responsible leadership is the root of all Failures at the international and national landscape amongst nations and geopolitical empires today and tomorrow as it was surely the case yesterday and in the long lens of History.
Responsibility is a great & powerful tool of Human Intelligence, but without courage it is a simple wishing well…
So it comes to me as no surprise that about 75 years after the statue of Lady Liberty was inaugurated, another statue was proposed, as its “twin” to be erected on the other side of the country, on the Pacific ocean harbor of America in one of the islands of the San Francisco Bay.
It would be created as the thinking person’s statue and called the Statue of Responsibility, as it would symbolise the other and yet equally important side of America’s prized virtue — the inherent responsibility and the obvious obligations that come with a free society and a mindful citizenship.
The idea was the brainchild of Viktor Frankl. In 1942 at the age of 37, Frankl, a psychologist, was deported from Vienna to the first of four concentration camps, where his father died of pneumonia, his mother and brother were gassed and his wife died of typhus. He ended up in Auschwitz. Within months of his liberation, over a nine-day period, he wrote the book that became “Man’s Search for Meaning”. In it, he tried to make sense of the evil he experienced and articulated the importance of having a goal to live for.
In 1962, when he revised the book for an American edition and, with the passage of time, had reflected more on the experience, he wrote the following:
“Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.”
Since then, his vision has been taken up by two nonprofit groups, The Responsibility Foundation and the Statue Of Responsibility Foundation, both with the blessing of his second wife, Elly Frankl. Among the latter group’s backers was the late Stephen Covey, a business professor and author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. Covey commissioned a sculptor, Gary Lee Price, who designed a 300-foot statue of two arms clasping each other by the wrist—a bond among individuals unshakably gripped together.
Several locations have been suggested. One is on Alcatraz Island (which as a former maximum-security prison probably provides the wrong symbolism). A more inspiring choice is Angel Island, which sits around four miles off of San Francisco and served as an immigration-processing centre for more than half a million new residents between 1910 and 1940. So far, both projects have stalled.
Mrs Frankl, at 95 and living in Vienna, notes that her husband’s idea for a statue was meant as a thought experiment. “He was surprised and flattered when he heard of the project. I don’t think he ever expected to be taken literally,” she said in an interview, conducted through Alex Vesely, their grandson and a board director of the Viktor Frankl Institute. “Many people talk for hours and say very little, but he had this gift of speaking the truth with a few simple words. He coined this phrase to make a point,” she said.
What makes Viktor Frankl’s idea so appropriate is that, as he understood, liberty begets responsibility; that with freedom comes the need for self-control and an obligation to think of others, not just oneself. That is what Frankl alluded to when he wrote that freedom is “only part of the story and half of the truth”.
The pandemic—with its ludicrous protests against face masks and vaccines in the name of freedom—has been a painful illustration of the costs to society when people fail to understand liberty’s flipside.
We don’t have a freedom problem: we have a responsibility problem.
What does it mean to be responsible?
It means understanding yourself as belonging to something larger than yourself.
it means accepting a duty to do right regardless of the cost.
To the Stoics, the branch of classical Greek and Roman philosophy that I study — our responsibility was to our character and to the common good, a dual loyalty very much similar to the way Victor Frankl wanted the two American statues on the East and the West from New York harbor to San Francisco bay, to commemorate two concomitant values.
Statues are totems to our values. We erect them not just to honour the past but to remind the present. The great Athenian orator Demosthenes once reminded an audience that previous generations did not put up monuments to recognise their own achievements but to spur people to greater deeds in the future. Yet sometimes the past and present collide.
Around the world, people have begun to look uneasily at the statues in their cities, parks and campuses. In Belgium, some monuments to Leopold II, the coloniser king, have been removed. In Britain a heavy, bronze statue of Edward Colston, merchant, philanthropist & slave trader, was pulled down and pushed into Bristol Harbour. In New Orleans enormous cranes removed the statue of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee, which stood near the entrance to the French Quarter.
Although many of us can agree that statues of colonisers, murderers and traitors should go, it has long struck me as peculiar that we have little sense of what should be there instead. America in particular has struggled to put up any new statues lately… It took more than 20 years to plan and erect the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial, a set of bronzes in Washington, DC. The Martin Luther King Jr Memorial, in a park next to the National Mall, is not even ten years old; yet plans for it began shortly after his assassination in 1968.
Likewise, when it comes to a Statue of Responsibility, somehow no one is willing to be responsible. It is preposterous, because there are more than enough tech entrepreneurs on a single block in downtown San Francisco capable of funding such a project through their own pocketbook…
Methinks that what is needed is a sense of urgency and the sense of responsibility to do this for future generations, and for this one as well.
Because we ought to be mindful of what the French Humanist Author and freedom loving writer André Malraux once said:
“You can judge a society by the monuments it puts up.”
Yet it seems to me that we are lacking in that respect and as we are hurrying along to “built back better” — we best reflect and choose some new ideals to go with it…
You ought to know by now that the actual Lady Liberty is depicted in motion, taking a step forward now and forever…
Indeed most of us have seen the statue many times, but never noticed that her feet are not stationary but striding forth, because Lady Liberty is on the move, since she uses her freedom and there’s no time for standing still, or waiting.
She’s got work to do.
So too the Statue of Responsibility should be active, symbolising what we ought do, individually and collectively, to act co-operatively on the major challenges of our time. “We are humans, given a heart and a brain. This makes us responsible,” says Mrs Frankl. “There are tasks waiting for us.”
Amid covid-19, some people ran away from their responsibilities while others ran toward them—selflessly, courageously. Millions did their duty quietly and without complaint and never ended up in the news. We should celebrate and immortalise the values that create a responsible society. We should bind it to our cultural consciousness as we did liberty. Those who proclaim their freedom but ignore their responsibility aren’t being heroic but self-centred and irresponsible. They are misusing the gift they have been given.
That is what lies behind Viktor Frankl’s observation that “freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness.” Imagine how different the response to the pandemic might have been if the value that Americans looked up to wasn’t just liberty for themselves but responsibility for each other.