My recent trip to NYC was initiated by my “egg lady.” It’s an unusual story, to say the least, but the end result was that I agreed to take a very naive, chicken raising 30-something to see the big city. She knew my son lived in Manhattan and asked if I would take her along the next time I visited. It was a bold request… And I said yes for a number of reasons but the two biggies where to (a) spend time with a beloved son and (b) to challenge myself to spend time with a known Trumpp [sic] supporter and not get into trouble. I can claim success on both counts although, to be honest, sometimes I struggled with the challenge part of the trip.
As expected, my companion met the city with wide-eyed wonder. I fell into “field trip mode” and loved planning our days to hit the places she had googled. Her list included the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island so off we went.
I remember the first time I had visited Lady Liberty. We had taken a foreign exchange student from the Czech Republic there—nothing says “America” like Lady Liberty. The Czech Republic had been under communist rule until 1990 so democracy was new to Josef and his family. Being the first in his family to travel outside of the country, he understood the terms “freedom” and “liberty” more than we did. He quaked at the sight of her.
This time was different. My little tag-along wanted to see her not because of her history and all that she represented for the 12 million immigrants she welcomed but because she was what you do when you go to New York. She was a famous statue, nothing more.
For me, the emotion felt standing at the foot of Lady Liberty during this political clime was almost too much. What will become of her in the age of Trumpp [sic]? What will happen to all those placards proclaiming the success of America built on the backs of immigrants, reminding the visitors that immigrants were assets, bringing with them a diversity of culture, talent and a willingness to adopt this country of their own? How will this global image of welcoming change under Trumpp [sic]? What will drive people to Lady Liberty in the future, reverence or mockery? I was overcome.
In the end, I made my way around this great statue by taking pictures not of her but for her. Moving from one foreign family to another, I offered to take a picture of them together in front of Lady Liberty. Language was no obstacle. Dozens gleefully handed over their cameras, thanking me with smiles and hugs. Many insisted on taking my picture! They wanted to remember this friendly American who offered a simple kindness on their vacation to NYC: I just wanted to make Lady Liberty proud.
I left the Statue of Liberty Gift Shop with two purchases: a postcard printed with the most famous excerpt from Emma Lazarus’s poem, “The New Colossus”, and copy of JFK’s book, A Nation of Immigrants. I also left with a profound sense of duty to stand up for this grand lady, Trumpp [sic] or no Trumpp [sic].
Next stop: Ellis Island.