This post stems out of a conversation I had a few weeks back about a distaste (somewhat joking) for things and people French. Or at least slightly. Once, some years back, and in a drunken fit of homesickness, I left a party and was overtaken in the street by a band of French rogues who threw me to the ground and repeatedly raked my face across the concrete. This was in Pittsburgh, mind you. That being the truth as I told it.
The "truth" aside, I like french toast on occasion and enjoy a plate of french fries accompanied by the loveliest of American cuisine, the cheeseburger. Mmm, get all dribbly just thinking about it. And today I spent a portion of the day wandering around the city of New York with a friend who I've known since those days in Pittsburgh and a friend of hers who had just arrived back in the states from a 6 year stint in Russia (Volgograd and Moscow) teaching English. He is originally from Canada. So being that we were with a tourist, we were viewing things that tourists view (which if you've spent time living in new york, you don't view unless people come to visit from elsewhere--something about self-involvement and mythology could fit here but I'm tired).
Walking across the Brooklyn bridge, we caught a few glimpses of the statue of liberty. Stopped to take pictures of the architecture and the crushing of Miss. Freedom between two Canadian fingers. There was a fender bender on the bridge and everyone walking gawked for a minute. Drivers were cursing and flailing and beeping. The man whose car was hit almost had his driver side door ripped off by opening it into oncoming traffic. The weather was beautiful. High reaching cumulus and just enough sun. Being the front of July, it was unseasonably mild.
The statue of liberty, however iconic and possibly overblown, still maintains a resonance that very few national symbols can hold a flame to. Yes, I know the turn of phrase is cliche and too cute, but there's something to it. The statue is not commemorating our dead founders, it is not a testament to any religion, it is not simply a feat of architectural ingenuity, or a large timepiece--it embodies an idea that, however hollow and not entirely withheld throughout our nation's short years, people can truly aspire to. And the french might hold to this ideal better than we do, but the statue they gave us is not their nation's welcoming mat.
While I was traveling from what is possibly the most powerful part of this city (this city that is known around the world from representations on screens that make it seem almost as large as it is) across dirty water to another part of the city that receives enough waste to build acreage out of that same dirty water, there she was. The green lady with her skirt and her tablet and torch set against a backdrop of white pillows on a pale blue bed of sky. The lady whose name has been whored out on the tongues of many politicians, whose image and meaning supposedly make foreigners hate the people who populate our nation. And she is beautiful. But it's not her fault. It's the fault of the French. With their damn ideals and grace. This is the truth.
And I will not proselytize about my politics, as they're shifty to begin with. I just know that this nation can be better than it is, and this has always been the case. But I would not want to be anywhere else for too long. At least for now.
Happy Canada Day.