Let Freedom Ring

Originally published July 4, 2020 by Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – Freedom is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast. Viktor E Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, Beacon Press, Boston, Massachusetts, 2006, p 132.

One of the tasks I have undertaken during this time of quarantine is to read all 80 books selected by students at the Clinton School of Public Service here in Little Rock for their annual “Recommended Reading Booklist.” Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning is #36 on that list (as I alphabetized it) and I just finished reading it this afternoon. His comment about the Statue of Liberty particularly caught my attention on this 4th of July, a holiday when we generally watch fabulous fireworks displays against the backdrop of our Lady of Liberty.

But not this year.

The Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island are temporarily closed in response to the COVID-19 virus outbreak. New York has remained at the top of the list of “highest percent of population diagnosed with the virus,” though Florida, Texas, California, and Arizona numbers have soared in the past week and the infection curve is rising in 40 states. What will actually happen tonight varies widely all across the country; social distancing guidelines have spurred sales of fireworks to individuals. Nearly half of U S states are taking new steps to limit the spread of the virus, with many making special rules to combat crowds over the holiday weekend.

But back to New York. To allow New Yorkers to experience this year’s 4th of July Fireworks safely without creating crowds, Macy’s has reimagined their annual spectacle as a series of smaller unannounced displays in every borough of New York City. Each show is brief and will be over before residents can gather at its source. Stay close to home and follow safe social distancing guidelines is the message. This is one example of Responsibleness in action.

And back to Viktor Frankl, and his thoughts on the subject of being responsible. Broadly speaking, freedom is the ability to do as one pleases. But the responsible use of freedom does not deprive anyone else of their freedom.

If the Statue of Liberty was open today, and you could go stand under her watchful eye, that’s what she would say, take my word for it. Meanwhile, tune in this evening for those Macy fireworks and see if you can catch a glimpse of the old gal, standing alone in the harbor in quarantine. Waiting for her partner to be erected out there on the other shore of our united states, the Statue of Responsibility.