Filed by: Patricia Nell Warren
October 5, 2008 6:00 PM
o the creators of that Republican campaign commercial that appropriates the Statue of Liberty -- I've got news for you. You're hawking the wrong symbol. In fact, you're stealing a symbol that actually shoots a big hole in all the fundamentalist churchy propaganda put out by your party during this election.
Liberty is a pagan goddess. Obviously you weren't paying attention in history class. It's spelled G-O-D-D-E-S-S. There's a test on this tomorrow.
The Goddess of Liberty isn't found in the Bible. (If you really studied the Bible, you'd know that.) She comes straight out of Greek and Roman pagan tradition, complete with that toga and sandals. Under the name Libertas, She appeared on Roman coins as an emblem of the emancipation of slaves. She often wore a liberty cap that the newly freed Roman was allowed to put on in a special ceremony at Her temple.
Devotion to Her was revived during the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment, when Europeans began to kick off the shackles of state Christianity. Finally Liberty made the leap to the Americas with colonists and founders who were educated in that classical tradition of government by republic. Her image was stamped on the very first coins minted by the new republic of the United States, along with the old liberty cap and our new national motto LIBERTY. And She was on our money for nearly two centuries. It took your Bible-believing friends nearly a century of lobbying to get the motto changed to "In God we Trust" (Act of Congress, 1865).
Next it took your Bible lobby nearly another century to to get that "heathen" (as the lobby called Her) removed from our coins entirely. It was done so stealthily that -- even as She became our national icon, with the Statue of Liberty going up in New York Harbor in 1886 -- the public didn't notice. She was off the cent by 1857, off the nickel by 1912, off the quarter by 1930. The last Liberty dollars to be minted for circulation came in 1935. Wearing Her liberty cap, She was still on the dime till 1945. As the Walking Liberty, She was on the half dollar till 1947. How appropriate that She saw us through World War II and the victory over fascism. But our government was evidently not grateful to Her for the victory. After 1947 -- poof! She was gone.
Nations always put their most important symbols on their money. Nearly two centuries of a pagan goddess on our money is proof that the United States of America was not "founded under God." If it was -- if your Bible buddies had that kind of clout in 1776 -- our coins would have showcased Jesus from the start.
Yes, Liberty is a pagan. She keeps company with Isis, and Juno, and Tara, and White Buffalo Woman. She wasn't recommended in any Catholic encyclicals. She wasn't touted by Martin Luther, or Cotton Mather, or R. J. Rushdoony. Anywhere that the love of liberty finally awoke in the hearts of thinking Christians in Europe and the U.S., it was because they borrowed the idea of Her from the pagan ancients -- and they knew it was an idea whose time had come because they'd seen the abuses of non-thinking religion up close. Yet some fundamentalists today are even talking against Her statue in New York Harbor, calling it the "Whore of Babylon." One day, that magnificent monument to the most human side of our history -- immigrants who came here to find liberty -- may also be demolished.
In your ad, the book that the Statue carries in one arm is not the Bible. It's the pagan Book of Knowledge -- the schoolbook of thinking statespeople who were freeing themselves from coercive belief and enslaving government. The Latin word for book is liber. That's because the great minds of Greece and Rome had figured out that there is no emancipation without education. The torch She carries is another symbol of education. It takes data, not dogma, to shine into the darkness and make things clear for us.
Maybe that's why your party has let American education go to the dogs -- graduating more and more Americans who are ignorant enough to believe all the religious lies and propaganda that they're fed -- including the myth that "America was founded under God."
For us in the LGBT world, the Goddess of Liberty is a life-saving, sanity-saving symbol -- the ultimate icon. To come out, to be honest with ourselves about who we really are, we've had to educate ourselves, little by little. We've had to crack that Book of self-knowledge. We've had to shine that torch into the terrifying, fearful darkness of the closet where we spent so many years.
During LGBT History Month, we deal formally with the tons of old religious dreck that the conservative religion-mongers like you are still try to pile on us -- all the old corrosive, coercive, dark beliefs and misinformation about sexual orientation and gender identity that made each of us live in waking nightmares during childhood and youth in different religions -- that each of us had to leave behind and burst out into our own personal daylight..
It's too bad about you folks who created that campaign ad. You say you want to lead us, but you aren't even free yet.
reprinted from the Bilerico Project: daily experiments in LGBTQ