Ave Columbia!

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Ave Columbia! Tutelary of the United States and personification of her values.

Hail to those who honor her spirit in the nation’s founding documents, who defend us in peace and in arms, who demonstrate might with compassion, challenge us with nonviolence, and remind us of our true nature through art and rebellion.

Hail to those who have honor her spirit by seeking freedom,  from caged children who shame their oppressors to voices tearing down symbols of racism on her land.

Hail to those who see her spirit, compassionate and welcoming.

Behold how proudly she wears the Phrygian cap, symbolizing freedom and the pursuit of liberty. Worn by priests of resurrected Attis, consort of Cybele, and god of eunuchs and vegetations, and now a mark of liberty. Worn by Roman slaves who had won their freedom and blessed by Libertas, goddess of liberty.

Ave Libertas, “Enlightening the World”, adorning the New York harbor, her visage a gift from France whose people revived the Phrygian cap through their own revolution against tyranny.

May we hear the words of The New Colossus inscribe beneath her image:

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-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Statue of Liberty. Photo Credit: S. Ciotti]

 

May we hear the continuing echo across a hundred years from the Cleveland Gazette, the African American newspaper challenging that liberty reigns for all and equally:

This government is a howling farce. It can not or rather does not protect its citizens within its own borders. Shove the Bartholdi statue, torch and all, into the ocean until the “liberty” of this country is such as to make it possible for an inoffensive and industrious colored man to earn a respectable living for himself and family, without being ku-kluxed, perhaps murdered, his daughter and wife outraged, and his property destroyed. The idea of the “liberty” of this country “enlightening the world,” or even Patagonia, is ridiculous in the extreme.

Ave Voices of Columbia, those ancestors, who were both visionaries and freedom fighters, though still oppressors and slave owners, who despite their flaws, their blindness and deafness on equality, still heard her words and enshrined the tools of freedom in the U.S.  Constitution.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Ave those flawed Heralds of Columbia at the founding of America, who reminded their world and our world how freedom is cherished

“But it is objected that the people of America may, perhaps, choose representatives who have no religion at all, and that pagans and Mahometans may be admitted into offices. But how is it possible to exclude any set of men, without taking away that principle of religious freedom which we ourselves so warmly contend for? This is the foundation on which persecution has been raised in every part of the world. The people in power were always right, and every body else wrong. If you admit the least difference, the door to persecution is opened.” – U.S. Justice James Iredell, one our first Supreme Court justices, appointed by George Washington

 

 “Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting “Jesus Christ,” so that it would read “A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.” – Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography

 

 “…the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…” – Article 11, Treaty of Tripoli, 1796 (signed by President John Adams)

Ave her Augurs across time who taught that dissent is worship of freedom.

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. –  Frederick Douglass

 

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Ave Columbia! Ave those who seek her and those who serve her: From those who report the truth to power, to those who speak the truth to power, to those who cannot speak because they drowned seeking freedom.

May we take this day to reflect on the blessings of Columbia and Libertas, to see how far we have come and how far we have slipped.