In today’s New York Times there was a story about a church in Tennessee that took it upon themselves to remake Lady Liberty….you know, *The Statue of Liberty.* I understand the concept of this being a free country and people are at *liberty* to express themselves as they wish, as long as they aren’t endangering others that is, but this make over is just WRONG and I doubt that the Ms. Liberty would appreciate what they’ve done to her one bit. Jane and I certainly don’t.
“As the congregation of the World Overcomers Outreach Ministries Church looked on and its pastor, Apostle Alton R. Williams, presided, a brown shroud much like a burqa was pulled away to reveal a giant statue of the Lady, but with the Ten Commandments under one arm and "Jehovah" inscribed on her crown.
And in place of a torch, she held aloft a large gold cross, as if to ward off the pawnshops, the car dealerships and the discount furniture outlets at the busy corner of Kirby Parkway and Winchester that is her home.” (July 5, 2006, NY Times, Shaila Dewan)
Jane is a New Yorker who through no fault of her own, has had to relocate to Tennessee. To the Memphis area of Tennessee which is where Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee meet. For Northerner’s this part of Tennessee is a forbidding place to live. For months now, Jane has sent all of her friend’s horrifically humorous emails about what living in that part of the country is like. I sent her the NY Times article this morning to see what she thought and found out that this particular version of the lady, is five minutes from her house and her husband drives by it every day on his way to work. Needless to say, she is less than pleased.
As New Yorker’s I think we have a special affinity for the Statue of Liberty, after all she does live in New York. Collectively we have become very protective of our landmark statuary and very possessive of it all. I also believe that after 9/11 we became bigger New Yorker’s (if that’s possible). I often wonder if that has any bearing on this huge desire I have to move to the city. That I can’t truly feel like a New Yorker unless I have actually lived in NYC. Jane is a big New Yorker who for now, lives in Tennessee. Here are her thoughts on the recent make over and what it’s like to live in the Bible Belt. Keep in mind please that Jane is a very religious woman, much more so than me:
Given further thought...I have some observations about the "Bible Belt".
Living in the Bible Belt seems to give people license to create new religious sects that single out certain people either for an "Up" elevator ride or a treacherous "Down" trip upon their demise. Proximity to "The Belt" allows you to express very twisted, prejudiced and in many cases outlawed ideals by which society should abide.
Perhaps my affinity to Lady Liberty as she stands was reinforced the day I cried for our lost friends and feared that some unknown, perverse enemy might fly a plane into her next. To mutate her for religious cult purposes seems obscene.
We sat at dinner with a lovely couple we met last year. They never appeared to be substance abusers or in any other way criminal. All of the sudden, in the middle of a sentence, the gentleman took his beer (the only beer he had all night) and tucked it behind the salsa and chips in the middle of the table. He hastily explained that their pastor had just walked into the restaurant and if he wanted to be allowed to volunteer for any groups in the church, he'd better not be seen drinking. And I thought "Or cavorting with sorts like us!!". He explained that Southern Baptists only drink in their homes so as not to be found out by their co-congregants. There are a bunch of restaurants down here with little sectioned off rooms for privacy. I thought it was for the old Southern gentleman's discretion with his mistresses (which is probably also true), but our friend explained that the little booths were designed so that your neighbors couldn't see you imbibe. The rooms are still very much in use.
One of my male friends from work (another director) made several rude jokes and comments about homosexuals while in my company during our training in Chicago. I said to him at one point that I found the jokes unfunny and that we had left a church in Memphis due to anti-homosexual remarks made during a sermon. It took him 4 months to tell me that he is gay; he was afraid if anyone knew they would ostracize him. He acted in a self-hating way because of the sick, antiquated ways of the South. I found that so painful. If I was him, I would get in my car and drive North or West or East...I don't know-anywhere but here.
I hate that so many down here truly believe that they have more rights, deserve better access to services and luxuries... freedom to speak their minds (no matter how narrow they are) based on the color of their skin. And it's the same color as my skin and I am embarrassed by that.
So, these are some of the serious reasons I would like to leave this area someday soon. I have met people from Georgia, SC, NC and Oklahoma. They all feel the same way, as though we are caught in some kind of time warp. Memphis as Time Warp....sounds feasible. Even people from Nashville claim a different mind set entirely. We are in the vacuum that is Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi. Places where time stands still.
Beam me up, Scotty!!