Yesterday I read in USA TODAY that the Statue of Liberty was not a gift from the government of France to the people of the United States. In an article headlined “Unmasking the myths behind Lady Liberty” (expounding on a new book by Elizabeth Mitchell titled Liberty’s Torch: The Great Adventure to Build the Statue of Liberty), it was further revealed that French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi “did not like most Americans. He thought that they were more interested in money than art.” Can you imagine that!
Like you (assuming you are like me), I am of course highly insulted by such an insinuation….especially coming from a man who, as he was building it, “put parts of the statue on display with an admission charge” and “copyrighted the statue’s image, intending to get paid every time it was used in ads, postcards and trinkets.” A French artiste should be rich enough to finance such a work with his own funds, just like an American artist.
In any case (no thanks to the French government), sufficient funds were raised and the rest, as they parlez-vous, is history….speaking of which, the above revelation got me to thinking about how many other celebrated “gifts” haven’t been all they seem on the surface.
The legendary Trojan Horse story is undoubtedly the most famous of them all, hence the well known saying, Beware of Greeks bearing gifts. In a more general sense, of course, what can top politicians promising anything to get elected? And, not to beat a dead horse, many religions promise eternal bliss in heaven for behaving yourself while going through hell on earth. ‘Twas ever thus.
Satirical geek that I am, my favorite has to be the 72 virgins promised to Islamic martyrs by Muhammad/the Koran — 72 “young, full-breasted” virgins, no less. I must admit that this one is the most persuasive of all. At my age, this holds the future promise of being as good as it gets.