Sunday’s Washington Post is marking the Fourth of July by metaphorically miniaturizing the Statue of Liberty to a tiny, hypocritical figurine that sits on a fingertip. The author of this flaming bag of rhetorical feces is Philip Kennicott, the Post‘s perenially dyspeptic art and architecture critic.
The headline is “Lady Liberty’s shrinking appeal.” Kennicott’s theme is obvious, that Donald Trump and the Republicans ruined the pro-immigrant spirit of the monument: “The noble sentiments of the poem by Emma Lazarus — ‘give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free’ — were all but effaced in the past four years of strident and often violent anti-immigrant sentiment.”
Maybe it’s time to admit that the Statue of Liberty has never quite measured up https://t.co/EnVV999dnm
— Philip Kennicott (@PhilipKennicott) July 3, 2021
Kennicott wrote Lady Liberty is gauche: “compared with other icons of national identity, it is ambiguous and ambivalent. As familiar to some Americans as the flag, the statue is just as meaningless or foreign to others, a sign without significance, or worse, a symbol of hypocrisy or unfulfilled promises.”
He made a beeline for Lonnie Bunch, founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, to insist the blacks had no affection for this statue. “The new immigrants were often seen as better than Black Americans,” Bunch said.
Then he continued:
The ironies and blind spots pile up. Liberty was depicted as a woman, at a time when women didn’t have the right to vote. In 1882, the United States passed the nakedly racist Chinese Exclusion Act; a year later, construction of the base of the statue began with Chinese laborers among the workforce. The idea of the statue was associated with the 100th anniversary of the revolution that brought American independence. But Bartholdi created a sedate, classicizing and mostly sexless figure, not the radical revolutionary icon of liberty known in France as Marianne (the bare-chested woman seen in Delacroix’s 1830 painting, “Liberty Leading the People).”
I remember yet another moment of dissonance, from the day in 1986 when Reagan celebrated the renovation of the statue with a bland speech about liberty, complete with bombastic music and a relighting spectacle. Only days before, the Supreme Court had issued its decision in a case called Bowers v. Hardwick, which held that states could criminalize same-sex activity without violating the Constitution.
I remember thinking, at the time, that a statue that held little meaning to me was suddenly meaningful in a very particular way: I could reject it. “This is your symbol, not mine,” I said, repeating if not the exact words at least sentiments similar to those others had no doubt felt since the beginning of the republic.
And yet journalists are shocked when Americans have little affection for journalists or their bosses as their leftist propaganda outlets struggle financially — well, those without Jeff Bezos. “This is your struggle, not mine,” we could say. “You’re hypocrites with unfulfilled promises.”
Kennicott concluded by proclaiming he last viewed Lady Liberty from a pier in the city, so he could report “The statue never seemed so small.” This man has a real problem with America. Last August, Scott Whitlock reported how he mocked a memorial for Eisenhower during the time of coronavirus, describing America as “a pathetic object, mocked and pitied around the world, unable to keep its people safe from a virus that other countries have contained.”
He previously mocked the “abject failure of America.” (Because our libraries are not aesthetically pleasing?) He dismissed Mount Rushmore as “colossal kitsch,” nothing more than a “populist spectacle.” In May 2020, the Post writer sneered that America is “desperately sick.”
Democracy has died in darkness inside this man’s soul.