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Statue of Liberty: Enlightening the World

Statue of Liberty, New York, USA

America holds a very important place in the world today. From its humble beginnings as a colony of Britain, no one would expect that it would become the superpower every other country will look up to. America is now the land of the free and the land of opportunity for several people. And there is one icon in America that symbolizes all these: the Statue of Liberty.

New York’s Statue of Liberty is undoubtedly one of the most prominent landmarks of the city—and, perhaps, even the country. America boasts of numerous landmarks that proclaim their independence and their democracy (such as the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia; iconic since it was first rang as the sign of the signing of the declaration of independence). Also, the country has other recognizable landmarks that signify their status in the world (the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, for instance). Yet no other symbol can mark the beauty and the importance of the Statue of Liberty. More than its aesthetic value, this iconic statue symbolizes America’s rich and deep history and culture, and it serves as a remainder of what the country has been through and what the country stands for.

Ironically, the Statue of Liberty is thoroughly an American creation. The Statue of Liberty was France’s gift to the United States in 1886. This extravagant token was meant to recognize the friendship formed between France and the America during the American Revolution—hence its history and cultural value. The American Revolution marks the start of the country’s independence from the British monarchy; before the success of the revolution, America was a British colony. So the Statue of Liberty is more than just an ordinary tourist attraction; it is a piece of American history.

A piece of history

Obviously, the creation of the Statue of Liberty can be traced to the American revolution, when the original thirteen colonies of America—which were formerly sovereign states—formed one nation in order to break away from the British. In turn, the American Revolution started partly because of France—in particular, the end of France’s war against Indian (also known as the French and Indian War which ended in 1763).

The British parliament, wanting to recoup the expenses brought about by the war, passed a law increasing the taxes of the people in the thirteen colonies. This angered the residents of what will be known as America, since the bill was passed without proper representation. Simply, the parliament only consisted of Englishmen from the mainland, and the colony believed the bill isn’t valid because they were not represented. Claims by the colonies were represented anyway were bulked, as the residents of these colonies said no one who wasn’t a resident of America would know the country’s living conditions. Although the British countered that Americans paid cheaper taxes, the Americans said the British earned more than they do and are the main recipients of benefits from taxes. This was soon followed a number of new laws and rules, which the Americans didn’t find appropriate for the country, such as the Sugar Act, the Currency Act, and the Quartering Act—all of which came during a great financial depression in both Britain and America. One thing led to another, and America’s thirteen colonies united to start the American revolution. France became America’s ally against Britain. Britain, after all, was France’s biggest rival, and the country wanted to weaken the country by helping America. France’s assistance proved to be very beneficial for the thirteen colonies, although not so much for France itself; after the Declaration of Independence, America maintained close trade ties with Britain. Nonetheless, both countries acknowledged each other contributions—which is how the Statue of Liberty came be.

The birthing of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty was supposed to be in commemoration of America’s 100th year of freedom from the British. At this point, France was also out of monarchy, although many citizens opposed this decision. The government saw it fit to give the Statue of Liberty to America to emphasize how their “sister country” was doing. After all, part of the reason why the French Revolution happened was because the country assisted America, and America did turn out to be a superpower later on.

In any case, the statue was supposed to be completed by the year 1876, with sculptor Frederic Bartholdi commissioned to design the sculpture. Prior to the Liberty, Bartholdi had already created a number of sculptures and monuments in France, including the Monument du General Rapp, the Fontaine de l’Amiral Bruat, and the Fontaine Roeselmann. His other creations are also found around the world, and earlier scales of the Statue of Liberty can be found in Paris and Brazil.

The actual concept for the statue, however, was conceptualizes when Bartholdi went to the Suez Canal in Egypt. It was here when he realized his visions should be set to a colossal scale, instead of just simply grand. This wasn’t surprising at all, since Egypt is home to gorgeous but massive creations like the Sphinx and the Pyramids. Here, he envisioned the Liberty as a giant lighthouse at the entrance of the canal. Plans were approved and it was agreed that the creation of the statue will be a joint effort between the French and the Americans, with France responsible for the actual statue and America responsible for its base. Bartholdi himself chose the location where the statue will be placed. He chose Bedloe’s Island, to be known later as Liberty Island.

Although the Statue of Liberty was supposed to commemorate the centennial of America’s Declaration of Independence, the Statue of Liberty was only unveiled ten years after. This was due to financial problems, mainly due to lack of funding. Both France and America held fundraising to complete the construction of the base and the actual statue. The statue’s funding was completely collected in 1882 and the statue was finished in 1884. The base was finished later due to lack of funding. Joseph Pulitzer expressed his support of the fundraising through his newspaper, The World. He criticized the rich for their lack of action and the middle class for their dependency on the rich. The fun was completely ultimately, leading to the Statue of Liberty’s unveiling on October 28, 1886. It was unveiled by then President Grover Cleveland and was considered a momentous event, with thousand spectators.
From then on, the Statue of Liberty became many things to many people. For a number of years, it served as a lighthouse. It has also been closed due to a number of reasons. Most recently, the Statue of Liberty was closed to the public after the September 11 attack in 2001. It was re-opened three years later, with some additions and new restricted areas.

The statue as a symbol

But what does the Statue of Liberty mean to the Americans?

According to rumors that circulated in France at the time the Liberty was conceptualized, the face of the statue was based on the face of sculptor Bartholdi’s mother, while the body of Liberty was based on his mistress’s body. However, the face of Liberty is acknowledged to approximate the appearance of Apollo (the Roman Sun-god) or Helios (the Greek Sun-god). This was derived since Apollo is dressed the same way—in a similar robe and crown.

The actual name of the statue is Liberty Enlightening the World. This name was derived from the concept of “Enlightenment” which was extremely popular in the 18th century. The concept perfectly fits the American belief of equality among citizens. But beyond this, the statue holds a number of symbolisms and meanings. Of course, the symbolisms can first be found in the physical appearance of the statue itself.

The position of the Statue of Liberty is one of the more important parts of its purpose and symbol. Since people back then relied on naval transport, the statue (which is situated in a port) was the first thing immigrants would see once they arrive in America—it is as if this is the country’s way of saying welcome to these people. The Statue of Liberty, basing on its stance, does not stand still. Neither is it in movement—rather, it is on a constant move forward, as symbolized by the shackles Liberty is stepping on. The torch symbolizes enlightenment, something that could mean several things considering the stance of America now. “Enlightenment” could be the literal enlightenment derived from the principles of the Age of Enlightenment, although it could also mean enlightenment for everyone—especially now since America plays a vital role around the world. Most probably, enlightenment here means light for the nation which, at that point, was merely starting their journey as an independent and democratic nation. The seven rays on the Liberty’s crown symbolize the seven seas and continents of the world, while the tablet it holds symbolizes knowledge (the date of America independence is inscribed in the tablet). In general, the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of freedom and democracy. America is the land of the free, and the Statue of Liberty is the embodiment of this belief. As a symbol, America is the Statue of Liberty. And the Statue of Liberty is everything America is and everything America fought and is fighting for.

Of course, the Statue of Liberty as also served as a symbol or metaphor for several works of art, mainly in literature and in films. Several disaster and monster films often feature the Statue of Liberty destroyed or damaged in one way or another—stating that the country (due to the impending disaster or calamity), like the Liberty, is in peril or in some sort of altered mess. For instance, the Statue of Liberty was seen damaged in films like Independence Day or Cloverfield. In A.I., the statue, together with the whole of New York City, was submerged underwater.

The Liberty as a tourist attraction

Unavoidably, the Statue of Liberty also serves as one of America’s most iconic tourist attractions. And while it is only one of New York’s many city attractions—for instance, New York boasts of Broadway, Central Park, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Empire State Building, among others—the Statue of Liberty still remains to be a much visited spot. The area itself offers numerous sites—from the island with its lush and attractive scenery to the museum with its important artifacts. And, of course, there’s the statue, which doesn’t only offer a splendid site of New York and its surrounding areas buy also a quick look into the history of the United States of America.

Because of this, the Statue of Liberty has been subjected to a number of repairs. One of the more notable repairs done to it was in 1983, under the presidency of Ronald Reagan. The statue was extensively repaired and was reinstated in 1986. Between the repairs and the reinstatement, the statue was covered. The original torch was also replaced by a new one (the original is currently on display in the Liberty museum).

However, the Statue of Liberty as a tourist attraction is no longer the same as it was several years ago. For one, the crown is no longer open to the public. Several attempts in the Senate to reopen it for the public have failed due to previous threats to the statue in the light of the 9/11 incident.

Despite the changes, however, the Statue of Liberty will always be the Statue of Liberty. Now until the end of time, this monument will remain to be the universal symbol of freedom and democracy. As what France said when it gave the statue to America, the Statue of Liberty will always symbolize that perhaps, one day, everyone will have what America has. In this every shifting world, with the status of countries ever changing, this may or may not still be applicant years from now. Yet, it will remain people that once there was a country that stood from the rubble and started to fight for freedom.

Then and now, the Statue of Liberty will enlighten the world.

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