What do you think of when you think of the Statue of Liberty?
Perhaps your heart swells with pride, seeing a symbol of America second only, perhaps to the flag or the bald eagle. Perhaps you are filled with a sense of freedom, promise and potential, of the American dream that called so many immigrants to its shining torch. Perhaps it reminds of New York, the greatest and most cosmopolitan American metropolis, the cultural and financial capitol of the nation. Perhaps it even makes you think of the fact that it was the grateful gift of France, and makes you sadly nostalgic for better days, when the relationship between us and our European brothers was not so strained.
As for me, it puts me in mind of the income tax preparation service located in a strip mall on the Austin Highway. This company hires people to stand on the sidewalk all day wearing a neon-teal gown and a huge foam crown, with an oversized plastic torch in one hand and a garishly lettered sign in the other, in the misbegotten hope that seeing such a disturbing sight will inspire customers to allow its originators to handle their finances.
Because the service is interested in cutting down on expenditures for this form of advertising that one normally associates not with investment services but rather discount appliance stores and felafel stands, they hire what appear to be rather weatherbeaten immigrants to portray Lady Liberty. While the four people I have seen in the role have wildly divergent body types, they all appear to wear the same outfit, the laundering of which is clearly not a high priority for its owners. Sometimes the actor will dine on food acquired from the nearby McDonalds while in costume, or chit-chat with workers disembarking from the equidistant bus stop; other times, it will rain, and the actor is obliged to awkwardly hold an umbrella in the same hand as his plastic novelty torch. Oh, yeah: all the people who portray the Statue of Liberty are male.
So, to summarize: fat or dwarfish food-stained Mexicans dressed in drag. That is what the Statue of Liberty means to me. And, really, isn't that what America is all about?
And that's...tasteful San Antonio.