“I chose my phrase “Liberty’s blind I” to highlight the way in which America has become blind of late to the suffering of “the teeming masses” around the world. The word “Liberty,” while claimed as much by the French as by America, embodies so much of what Americans largely say they cherish. It’s such a patriotic word, and a stirring one. When we think of justice, we want it to be blind, and that’s why we want the figure of Justice, holding the scales, to be blindfolded. But would we want the same of the Statue of Liberty, that grand French gift to the U.S. commemorating our centennial? Would we want “Lady Liberty” to borrow Justice’s blindfold, leaving Liberty blind and Justice all too aware of the wealth and status of those it serves? This seems to be where we’re at as a nation and that’s what I had in mind when I wrote this phrase. The “I” also refers to the American penchant for valuing individual liberty over the collective good, our collective right to walk free and safe. To me, there’s an inherent selfishness and blindness in our sometimes smug preening over our individual rights while ignoring the suffering of others outside of our walled off nation.”
Robin Hemley is the author of 12 books of nonfiction and fiction, and the Founder of NonfictioNOW, the world’s leading international conference in nonfiction. A graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, he returned to Iowa for nine years, to direct the Nonfiction Writing Program. Among his numerous awards for his writing, he’s been awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, three Pushcart Prizes in both fiction and nonfiction, The Independent Press BookAward for Nonfiction, and an Editor’s Choice Award from The American Library Association.
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