It is Sunday afternoon. I caught up last night on the television shows that I watch which have been shown this last week last night. It isn’t many of them — and some are fading fast and others are surprising.
All of them feature strong characters who have that quality of muliebrity I note, that womanliness, that antonym to virility, that is, as I have noted previously, so difficult for most people to define, so challenging to describe, that inevitably people turn to the use of what it is not, and then, when questioned about what it is not, they describe that thing in terms of muliebrity.
That might be a bit difficult to figure out for some people — I have a particular cadence and style of speech, very much influenced by my southern roots and very much given over to the southwestern ethos in which I am enveloped, yet come it does from an occasional poetic sense of things, a pleasure found in the sensuous flow of language, a love for words that is deeper than even I like to delve.
This weekend marks a significant point in the world, something critical to me, and, in the end, critical to many people, although not all of them may realize it. As a result of this weekend this anniversary of something, I thought I would mark it, because this anniversary is not of some stupendous event in the eyes of many, but yet it reflects and marks a point and a position where people who love the notion of Libertas, of leave, have in the past held unto the thing for which it is an anniversary tightly and with great verve.
I am, on the internet, scoffed at. Ridiculed. Aspersions are a stock in trade with which I am deeply familiar, and I am bloodied by them, awash in the violence that lies within such simple things, and unto a horror figure I can appear even though I might be as freshly scrubbed and scented as any sacrificial offering to the cause of the heavens can be.
It is not merely for the thing about which I speak the most that such happens. It is also because of what I shall speak about today, what, truly, I am often speaking about, and what fills my days, in a slow and steady way, a building in bits and pieces of the thing that I am driven to, a line in the sand, a point of demarcation, the point in time and space and thought and life where I strike staff to stone and cry forth “You shall not pass!”.
I am laughed at because I believe in this thing that the object of the anniversary stands for, in the symbolism that is wrapped around it, in the hope and yearning that fills it, in the thing that it was before it became symbolized.
No doubt many of you are wondering what in tarnation I am on about today, with all these fancy words and flowery speaking, the obfuscation of things done with a wry grin and sparkling eye.
I am, in the end, speaking to the qualities of womanhood, of womanliness, and how among them, most sharply, etched in our public consciousness, is the idea of freedom, or possibility, of opportunity, and of brilliance against the malodorous cloud of ignorance and superstition.
To many have forgotten what it is that the Statue of Liberty stands for, and even more are unaware of the power of that symbol, for they do not see the truth of it, they fail to grasp the heart of it, and they do not know what it means when one says Liberty Enlightening the World.
On October 28th, 1868, President Grover Cleveland was in the state he had once been governor for, and he stood up and spoke a line about the thing he stood in the shadow of and noted that her ”stream of light shall pierce the darkness of ignorance and man’s oppression until Liberty enlightens the world”.
Ask the poets and the politicians, and both will tell you that Liberty is of the highest import, that it is a nobility, not something one aspires to but something one either has or does not have, and that it is the right, either naturally or because there is no reason otherwise, of each and every person to have that, to enjoy it.
And yet, it is, as with any of the greater nobilities, the traditional markings that are known down through the centuries in western culture, deeply frightening, because it has the risk, the danger, the potential, to lead towards lawlessness and anarchy and disaster.
And while many of my readers are beloved of anarchy, I should point out that anarchy in practice is different from anarchy in theory, and that anarchy in practice is the death of liberty.
It is a very western ideal, this notion of Muliebral Meritoriousness, this fascination with that which is great and noble being linked to women. Some have said that the idea of nobility is derived from an ancient Goddess who ruled in the place of an Ancient God, others have said that she is the silent half of the The One, still others have many more theories.
But it is known, and it is deeply based in much of our culture, that the notions of our highest and more pure ideals are enfolded in the fabric of women, are aspects of womanhood.
Me, I blame the Greeks. Not only can we really put into place much of the modernesque ideas about patriarchy, but we can also get to the source material that inspired the many people who crafted, through the Art of their days bled to the now, to create this modern pantheon of women that we worship.
Wisdom is a woman. Justice is a woman. Virtue is a woman.
Metis. Themis. Athena.
There are other qualities that are part of this, as well: Artemis, Aphrodite, Demeter, Hera, Hestia, Ananke, Gaia, Hemera, Nyx, Thalassa.
But of them all, the ones that we, the great great grandchildren of the promise of the Enlightenment when knowledge became light, became power, became the ability to see what was once relegated merely to the spirits of the world, hold most dear are Themis and Athena.
In single shouldered, knee-length garments tied at the waist, armed with a torch or a scale, they have come to dominate the symbolism of our country, our time, our place.Justice and Liberty.
Liberty is described as the woman that we would become so enamored of that we would sacrifice anything for her — and how fitting is it that we who struggle to attain it, to find liberty, must often give our very lives.
Is it any wonder that she greeted so many with the promise of a new nation, as they passed by the 151 colossus that marked the end of a journey often of epic scale in the lives of those people as individuals.
We even have our own myths for her, our Lady Liberty, for if you haven’t figured it out yet, that is who I am describing.
She is no longer the Greek Goddess of old. She is a new Goddess, a much more modern one, and we still sacrifice for her and give unto her the due she demands, but we also still resist her commands, for she is still a remnant of an old world.
She is Liberty, made solid as a statue of copper and steel and god knows what else now that we have spent time and tide to clean her and make her whole again. Her torch, once overseen by the US Lighthouse agency, still lights the night.
We said we would love her, but a deadlocked and contentious congress would not summon the funds. We had no income tax then, so it was a challenge that would not happen today to make it happen. Never underestimate the power of change that came with that idea of income taxes. It might piss you right the fuck off, but without it, you would have no streetlights, no fire department, no police, and, likely for anyone making over 35K a year, no job.
And that means that you wouldn’t have unemployment or a minimum wage or social security or aid to women and children. You wouldn’t have farm subsidies and you wouldn’t have airlines and you’d be in a fucking hell without even an internet.
We would probably also be less well-educated. But that’s questionable, all things considered.
Because all of those things come from such.It took 30 years. Thirty Years. It took a newspaper publisher whose name has become synonymous with great reporting — Pulitzer — to spark the efforts of children to make something happen, and most of the people who built it did so with donations of less than 10 dollars.The equivalent today? Which is important to think about. It would be as if school children collected dollars, and no one donated more than 100 bucks.I am somewhat familiar with that challenge. It takes a lot to make it happen.
There is a poem now in the Museum there, a poem selected by the newspaper, that symbolized and started the heart of that campaign on the US side, called “The New Colossus”.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “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!”
And it also tells many tales.
The Author was a woman named Emma Lazarus. She was a strong woman, a poet, a woman who worked towards women’s rights. She was an outcast within her own country, of sorts, someone for whom the ideas of liberty had deep meaning — she was Jewish. She worked to help refugees, and she spoke out against the kinds of things that happen to the Jews of Anatevka, for those who are familiar with Broadway and musicals and history.
Look at that poem. It has been featured here before, because I so deeply hold to these ideals, and the breadth of those ideals are what make up my Line, and they are symbolized by this mighty stature who we celebrate the anniversary of today.
She is not like the Colossus of Rhodes. Nor is she the old goddess. She is a new one, one of our time.
Her name is the Mother of Exiles. The mother of the misfits, parent of the outcast, the unseen, the discarded.
She to the history across the sea, keep your myths, your ideas of sanctity, your vanity and your pretense to importance found in your kings and dukes and counts and barons, your lords of the earth and your masters of other men.
We are the land of those who fight, who struggle who endure and recover. We are the people for whom resilience is second nature, for whom oppression will end, for whom the rights of Mankind will be held forth.
We are still living up to that promise, but we are reaching for it, always, and while it takes a lot to cast off the wool that time and pomp have pulled over our eyes, once we do, we act.
I spoke yesterday of Cloud Atlas. It is the cinematic equivalent of this statue in many ways. I doubt that they were thinking of it that way, but that is what it is, and the coincidence of its release on this weekend? awesome.
Yearning is the most powerful emotion we have, I say. She beckons us to it, instills it within us,. and she is the force that we must keep in our hearts and our minds and our souls as we strive and surge forward in the cause of ending our own oppression.
She is, then, a Goddess for us.
A Goddess birthed from the mind of a man, ennobled by the wisdom of a woman.
How metaphorical, how apropos.
And yet, women were barred entry at the celebration that started, save for the wife of the sculptor an another; yet, in so deeply keeping with the spirit of lady herself, women struggling to gain what she represents filled boats and moved across the water as close as they could get, and made known their oppression in speaking this truth to the power assembled beneath the chains that lay on the pedestal at the Lady’s feet.
It was during this time and the years that followed, that one of the major symbols of the women’s rights movement was the Liberty Bell.
How fitting: a bell to ring for our Goddess, cracked because we have not yet lived up to the promise she represents.
Do Not Fuck With Us is the unspoken host for these women, these powers.She is the symbol for immigration still, yes, but that is just one of her aspects, just as Artemis, her sister, held the wild, the animals of the wilderness the hunt, and the power of beauty in secret.
These women worthy of the greatest in humanity.
Like the fictional character in a series of books, I am of necessity enamored of symbolism, and this may be way I challenge metaphors and aphorisms. This may be why I use them all the time, I inflict them on others, the imagery evoked and the conjuring of the elder thoughts is so very important to me, and it reveals so much.
To craft a pantheon of our day one needs must start with the women, and one needs must start with our Lady Liberty and our Lady Justice. And as one artist has some wonderfully captured, that means capturing the relationship between the two, close as lovers, and that means acknowledging that without seeing that, there can be no liberty and there can be no justice.
Just as denying that one of them is a woman sprung from a man would be denying that there can be justice and liberty.
And I note, with a certain satisfaction, that the Lady herself started out copper colored, and then became green. The surface of her changing as the nation did, the nature of her verdigris meely skin deep, and how that no longer represents the purity of many things, but the blending of many things.
I speak about my faith on occasion, without much in the sense of detail, but for me, that is a key component, for the hallmarks of my faith are metaphorical and associative and the connections are only obvious one you delve deeper.
That blending of things — the oxidation of copper that is the commingling of Earth and Air — that is filled with deep and grave religious import to me, so understand that I see that basic principle of science that not really all that magical thing, as filled with wonder and awe in their most sacred senses, stunning me and then going on to represent something more than what it merely is into what it merely might be.
It is, in the end, for Liberty that I strive. It is, in the end, for liberty that I seek to aid others.
And it is, as can be found to be true so very often, those that lack liberty that see it most clearly. And all too often, those who have it are blind to it, and are willing to sacrifice it, because for them it is a lot like knowing your are trans.
Which, in turn, is a lot like knowing how to breathe. Trans people are trans. Having liberty is second nature, it is something you don’t have to think about because you possess it, you enjoy it, you do it.
And, yes, that is a privilege.
It is fitting that no one died in the building of the symbol of Liberty, though million shave died to get what she represents.
Some have gone down in a shower of stones, others a bevy of bullets, still others under a hail of fists and clubs and have-whats.
Some have spent their entire lives fighting for just some of us to join the rest, and others of us have lived our entire lives knowing we wanted something, knowing there was something more, but not knowing what it is that we lacked.
We have lost some of the other merits that once guided us in the popular mind. THey are now mostly relegated to military areas.
Honor. Glory. Reputation.
We hold on to Justice because it is what stops liberty from descending into anarchy. We need Liberty to give justice meaning, though.
This tall, green Lady without her pedestal would stand lower, be smaller. She is not a massive architectural triumph. She is skinned in a common metal, she is archaic in many ways. She is a link to the past. A power and a force that changes the world, that changes hearts, that drives people towards something that for hundreds of years has been slowly and inevitably coming.
And yet, she is still unrealized beyond her symbol.
She stands at the shore with a Light that represents progress, and momentum, and has come to mean the light of truth pushing back the dark.
She bears a tabula ansata, a keystone shaped tablet, which symbolises the Law — Justice, about whom herein I write so much as well.
She bears the face of a mother who bore a son, even as the son bore a Goddess.
She was not the first Goddess of this nation. She has an older sister, one who influenced her. Her name was once considered to be our nation’s informal name — though these days it would be in bad form and besides, there’s another country that took it.
But this other Goddess, she was a new one as well, a Goddess of the New World, and named after a man, no less.
Our Capital honors her — or have you forgotten what D.C. stands for? It is her district, after all, even though Virginia stole back a portion of the once perfect square in an era when the reverence for our first President was even lower, perhaps, than ours today.
Her name is Columbia. Jane Wyman famously became her and to this day, we still see her in many films. She is seen there bearing a torch, the symbol of her sister. CBS owes its name to her. The command module for that first landing on the moon was hers. And many of us recall the fate of her Shuttle.
She here is seen holding the branch of peace, and beckoning to you, and garbed for war. She has taken the mantle of manifest destiny, she has many sins on her hands, and it is through Liberty and Justice that she extirpates those sins, though she tends to be a bit stubborn about it.
And yet, even she is birthed from that sense of hope and promise that our lady gives to us. Because that’s what this nation is, a nation of hope, a nation of promise, and while we don’t always fulfill them, we should certainly try harder, and struggle more, to live up to these things, to do what has been cried so often by so many:
Let my people be free!
Because that is what this nation is about. Liberty.
Sentimental jingoist I might be at times, but this is no refuge of the coward for me. This is the symbol and the hope of what time and circumstance shows is an ongoing march, a slow but steady movement forward, with bumps and bruises and detours along the way.
So today, once I finish this, I will go into the other room and I will half watch a few football games and piddle around with some videos.
But I will still be thinking of how marvelous this woman, and the women she stands with, truly is, in all the symbolism that she stands for.
And I will be pleased to be a woman myself, with my own muliebrity, my own meritoriousness.