Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Statue of Liberty and current events, winter 2017

Above is an illustration on Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper of July 2, 1887, showing immigrants on the steerage deck of an ocean steamer passing by the Statue of Liberty.  With everything going on here in our house it usually takes me a week or more, at night, to write a monthly post.  I had the current events section at the end of my Chinese Rooster Year post, but it became too long, so had to separate the posts.  In addition, I did not think roosters and Lady Liberty went well together.  Below is a political cartoon published in Puck magazine in 1880.

January 20, 2017 was the inauguration of Donald Trump as 45th President of the United States.  Some friends from overseas asked me how come Hillary Clinton did not win the election since she gained almost 3 millions more votes (an unprecedented figure in the history of presidential elections.)  In most countries she would have won - one person, one vote, but not in the USA because she won the "popular" vote and D. Trump won the "Electoral College" vote.  I read about it to explain to my overseas friends.  The Electoral College was established more than two centuries ago and is outdated, but still stands.  In a way it subverts the will of the voting majority.  A. Amar, a constitutional law professor at Yale University, states that the main reason for the origins of the Electoral College was to protect the Southern slave states.  A great part of the population of the US South was made up of slaves who could not vote.  The Electoral College allowed the Southern states to count each slave they owned as 3/5th of a vote.  It worked, as the first 8 presidential races out of 9 races were won by a Virginian.  Future president James Madison (1751-1836) a slave-owner from Virginia, had said he needed the Electoral College vote because in the South he "could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes."  (Below is an early painting of a US President with slaves - Library of Congress.)

In 2016, restrictions were placed by Republicans on over a dozen states.  They placed strict new voter ID laws that hurt many voters, for example older citizens who do not drive anymore and have outdated driver licenses were not allowed to vote.  They also decreased the number of polling places in black and poor areas to discourage the people from voting - North Carolina had 178 less polling places in 40 heavily black counties.  The Republicans would not have lost anyway because of what is called "gerrymandering."  Gerrymandering is defined as to "manipulate the boundaries of (an electoral constituency) so as to favor one party or class."  The USA is the only country in the world where the redistricting process is done by self-interested politicians.  Below is a chart, adapted by Stephen Nass, explaining the gerrymandering process in the States.

As an example I am showing below two districts that have been gerrymandered excessively for the benefit of politicians - Republicans and Democrats.  There are many counties such as these in the USA.  In North Carolina for example, Republicans secured the majority of congressional seats even though half of the state's voters cast Democratic ballots.  This is the "legal" way voters can be disenfranchised, and will be for many years .  There is a lot more to explain about the evolution of the Electoral College and gerrymandering but this is not a political blog; more information on US voting can be found on the Web.

Donald Trump was unhappy that photos were circulated showing smaller crowds at his inauguration than at President Obama's inauguration.  In D. Trump's first speech at the CIA Headquarters he moaned about the media's reports but still mentioned how many times his portrait had been shown on magazines.  Luckily for him, he had brought along 40 supporters so they could cheer and give him a standing ovation ...  Afterwards he had his White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, declare on television that: "This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period" even though his words contradicted available data.  Later, Kellyanne Conway, a Counselor to the President, called Spicer's statement "alternative fact."  As the saying goes "a picture is worth a thousand words" - see pictures below, at left the crowds in 2009, and on the right the crowds in 2017.  In center, is the crowd along Donald Trump's inaugural parade, and in the bottom, vice-president Pence walking in the parade.

The day after President Trump's inauguration was The Women's March on Washington, DC., Saturday 21 January, 2017.  It was the largest single-day demonstration in the history of the United States with marches in over 600 US cities, large and small.  For example 30 people in Stanley, Idaho, marched out of a population of 63!  It also became a worldwide march with over 81 countries participating in "sister marches."  It was estimated that 5 million and more marched in this anti-Trump protest.  It was to demonstrate against Donald Trump's offensive statements on women and to protect policies on women's rights, to counter Islamophobia and rape culture, to protect immigration, healthcare reform, the natural environment, racial and LGBTQ equality and freedom of religion.  Below are some of the marchers in Washington, DC, and New York City.  Congressman John Lewis of Georgia lead the march in Atlanta, GA.  (I talked about Congressman John Lewis at the end of my post of September 8, 2013 - click here to see it.)

In Paris, Marseille, Strasbourg and other French cities people marched in "solidarity."

Overseas the march swept the globe: they marched from the Antarctic Peninsula, Argentina, Aruba, Australia, Austria, The Bahamas, Belarus, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Caribbean Netherlands, Cayman Islands, Chili, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Kosovo, Latvia, Lebanon, Liberia, Lithania, Macau, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mexico, Myanmar, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, St Kitts and Nevis, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, United Kingdom, Uruguay, US Virgin Islands, Vietnam, Zambia and a dozen more!

Since his inauguration, President D. Trump has nominated billionaires to his Cabinet (combined net worth of 14 billions,) has eased fiscal regulations (that will hurt consumers,) has added his chief strategist, Steve Bannon (an ultra-right white nationalist) to the Security Council, has called for an immediate construction of a wall between the US and Mexico border, has signed an executive order to complete a controversial pipe line, has signed an order to start appealing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) which would strip millions from healthcare insurance, suspended a scheduled insurance rate cut for homeowners and more.  I was wondering why so many Trump supporters seem pleased with all these restrictive executive actions.  Then I read that America is the most frightened nation on earth.  If somehow you can convince the public that they have something to fear from foreign people, or poor people or people of other colors, they can easily be controlled to agree to anything - it's good brainwashing.  They will applaud as their freedoms are taken away.  The New York businessman and reality TV star, Donald Trump, has known this for many years, and that is - fear is an overriding emotion, with fear you can easily manipulate people in surrendering their democratic rights.

 The country and the world have been bewildered by all this activity and have been watching with worry and foreboding all this flurry of presidential directives, contra-directives, facts, alternative facts and so forth.  Now with the latest executive action banning Muslim refugees and immigrants from some Muslim majority countries (but maybe letting Christians come in,) world leaders have condemned the Trump regime.  What would US President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) say now?  In 1938 he said, while talking to the Daughter of the American Revolution: "Remember, remember always that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists."

In the country that boasts of freedom for everyone "equality and justice for all" D. Trump has now banned the resettlement of refugees, children and sick people.  "There are tears running down the cheeks of the Statue of Liberty tonight" said Chuck Schumer, the US senator from New York.  He is right, and the Statue of Liberty does not represent America anymore - an America of days gone by, maybe, but bigotry and fear have taken over now.  She might as well be fired by President Trump, as a resident alien from France.  Nowadays Europe is taking in seven times as many refugees as the United States does, so shouldn't she rather be in Europe?  Earlier I had seen ironic tweets from France such as this "tu peux nous renvoyer la Statue de la Liberté par post stp ? Merci.  "(Can you return the Statue of Liberty by post, please? Thanks.)  Here is a new one: "y'a moyen que la France récupère sa Statue de la Liberté? Elle leur sert pas à grand chose là." (Is it possible for France to recover her Statue of Liberty?  She does not seem to be of much use over there.)  Initially, it was a gift to the USA by the French people as a symbol of freedom for all.

There is a small replica of the Statue of Liberty in Paris on the border of the Seine River.  Not long ago someone placed a black veil on her head and wrote at her base "freedom in mourning."  The Paris Police and a Paris Fire Brigade had to come to remove the shroud.

All these executive actions have been quite negative.  But, on the flip side, it has proven great material for comedians.  D. Trump said in his inaugural address: "From this day forward, it's going to be only America first.  America first."  This has appealed to comedians everywhere.  After the "America First" speech, the Dutch TV made a satirical show asking that the Netherlands be "second" (click here) then Denmark (click here) then Belgium (click here) then Luxembourg (click here) then Kazakhstan (click here) then Portugal, Lithuania, Finland, Italy, Bosnia, Morocco and more are coming up (I can't keep up.)  Croatia is asking to be third (click here) Below is the message from Switzerland:  

Well, that is where we currently stand in the former country of freedom for all.  As D. Trump would say "so sad."  Comic relief helps - It's Great!

But let's return to the Statue of Liberty, and her beginnings.  As you may know it was designed and built by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi (French, 1834-1904.)  Bartholdi was a young sculptor from the region of Alsace, France.  When he was 21 years old he made a long trip (1855-56) to Egypt and Yemen with his friend the painter Jean-Leon Gerome (French, 1824-1904.)  They both were in awe of the colossal statues in Egypt.  Gerome wanted to show them in his paintings, and he did.  Bartholdi, after visiting the Nubian monuments at Abu Simbel, where immense statues guard the tombs, had developed a passion for colossal statues and huge public monuments.  Below is The Colossi of Memmon by Gerome and the portraits of Gerome, top, and Bartholdi, bottom picture.

The Suez Canal in Egypt (this has a connection to Bartholdi) was constructed between 1859 and 1869 thanks to a giant fund raising on the Paris Stock Exchange under the direction of retired French diplomat Ferdinand de Lesseps; Emperor Napoleon III of France (nephew of Napoleon I) was a big sponsor of this huge maritime project.  The Canal was inaugurated by his wife, French Empress Eugenie, on November 17, 1869, with a performance of the opera Aida by Verdi.  Below are portraits of Emperor Napoleon III (1808-1873) and his wife, Empress Eugenie of Montijo (1826-1920) both painted by Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-1873.)

Below is a painting showing the inauguration of the Suez Canal by French painter Edouard Riou (1838-1900.)

In 1865 Frederic Bartholdi had agreed to come up with an idea of a monument to be given to the USA from the people of France.  (You can read about this history in my post of July 4, 2009 "4th July and Statue of Liberty."  There are more posts mentioning the Statue of Liberty, see her name on the side of my blog)  But first, Bartholdi thought of designing a gigantic female fellah (Arab peasant) statue that would be placed at the entrance of the Suez Canal and serve as a lighthouse.  In April 1869 Bartholdi went back to Egypt and brought his statue prototype to Ismail Pacha, the khedive of Egypt.  His statue was a freed Egyptian female slave, rising, unshackled, above the Suez Canal, holding a glowing torch to announce that Egypt was a country of freedom.  He called it "Egypt brings Light to Asia" (as it opened a faster transit to Asia.)  But the khedive, who was short on funds, declined.  Below is a water color of the proposed statue of this Muslim Lady of Liberty offered to Egypt for the Suez Canal (courtesy Bartholdi Museum, France.)

Next Bartholdi started working on the monument to be given to the USA that was to be representing "Liberty Enlightening the World."  He went back to his original Egyptian statue and, based on that design, worked on several sketches to redefine the statue as a goddess, changing its oriental dress with a classical toga and naming it "Libertas" or "Lady Liberty" as it had been decided that this gift should be representative of "liberté" the French word for "freedom."  

Now you know the rest of the Statue of Liberty's story (or its beginning) and why she started as a Muslim freed slave.  This story is not well known in the US and would not please the anti-Muslim supporters; but can you grasp the irony, though?  (Below Currier and Ives print.)

In 1886, the people of France gave the Statue of Liberty to the USA in celebration of the 100th Anniversary of America's Independence.  This was given in friendship and in honor of the Franco-American alliance as well as the friendship built during the war of American Independence.  Below is Statue of Liberty's Celebration by Frederick Rondon, American (1826-1892.)

The statue was dedicated on 28 October, 1886, with a 21-gun salute from warships in the New York harbor.  President Grover Cleveland was present on Bedloe's Island for the dedication ceremony.  Liberty had her torch raised to the sky and the tablet of the law inscribed with the date of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence: 4 July, 1776.  Below is the painting of Edward Moran, American (1828-1901) who was present that day - Unveiling the Statue of Liberty.

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, 
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"  
- Emma Lazarus, 1883

Donne-moi tes pauvres, tes exténués
Qui en rangs serrés aspirent à vivre libres,
Le rebut de tes rivages surpeuplés,
Envoie-les moi, les déshérités, que la tempête m'apporte
De ma lumière, j'éclaire la porte d'or !


Monday, February 6, 2017

2017 Chinese New Year, the Fire Rooster

The Chinese New Year is a moveable feast as it follows the lunar calendar.  This year it started on January 28th, 2017, and will continue until the Lantern Festival on February 11, 2017.  Each year is related to an animal sign.  There are 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac.  Each zodiac sign is associated with one of five elements: Gold (Metal,) Wood, Water, Fire or Earth.  This year it is the Rooster, the Fire Rooster.  The Years of the Rooster include 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017 and 2029.  Our eldest daughter was born a year of an earth Rooster (said to be "lovely, generous, trustworthy, and popular with friends.")  Our younger daughter was born under a year of a water Rat (said to be "wise, resourceful, versatile, kind, smart and lovely.")

My husband was born under the Chinese earth Tiger and I was born under a Chinese gold Dragon (said to be "Natural, straightforward and unpredictable.")  Florence Nightingale and John Lennon were gold Dragons.  Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin and Martin Luther King, Jr. were also Dragons.  Famous people born under the sign of the Rooster are Catherine the Great, Eleanor Roosevelt, William Waulkner and Katharine Hepburn.  Click here if you do not know your Chinese Zodiac sign.  

The New Year according to the lunar calendar is also celebrated in many other Asian countries, such as Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, etc.  It is a fun time for festivals with traditional foods, gifts, dancing with the color red in prominence as it is a sign of good luck.  New money bills are often given in red envelopes as gift.  It was difficult to find predictions for 2017 under the Rooster sign.  In general a Rooster year is a bit unpredictable, good for people of action who act first and think later (as in aggressive diplomacy.)  A Rooster year can also bring fanaticism and coarseness, unfortunately.  Roosters, as animals, are very colorful with many different breeds.  Below are some French breeds shown on stamps.  Rooster in French is "coq." 

Below are a couple of vintage postcards with other English breeds.

Below top postcard is the Brahmas Hermines breed and under it the Scots Grey breed.

I always liked roosters.  When I was growing up in Paris and wished to draw a rooster, my mom took me to the zoo so I could see one.  When we moved to our house in Georgia, there were chickens and a rooster in the barn in the backyard.  I decorated our kitchen with many rooster motifs and still have several rooster prints.  I also made a rooster embroidery (must already be in a moving box.)  Roosters have such distinctive plumage - I played with some of my pictures - see below and please click to enlarge to see colors and details better.  By the way the rooster in the center was taken at the Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina.  I showed this rooster at the end of my post "Osconalutee Mountain Farm Museum" of 13 August, 2009 - click here to see it.

The rooster has been a symbol in many religions (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism.)  The cockerel was the symbol of independent Gaul (early France) and now the "Coq Gaulois" (Gallic rooster) is the emblem of France.  It has also been a logo for French sports since 1909.

For hundreds of years the rooster has been on top of churches and other buildings as a weathervane.

Famous painters have used roosters as a subject in their paintings.  Below is "Bonjour Paris" by Marc Chagall, Russian-French (1887-1985) and "Le Coq" by Juan Miro of Spain (1893-1983.)

Here is a poem on the rooster by French surrealist poet Louis Aragon (1897-1982) and my feeble translation.

Le Coq

Oiseau de fer qui dit le vent
Oiseau qui chante au jour levant
Oiseau bel oiseau querelleur
Oiseau plus fort que nos malheurs
Oiseau sur l'eglise et l'auvent
Oiseau de France comme avant
Oiseau de toutes les couleurs.  

The Rooster

Bird of iron that shows the wind
Bird singing at the rising dawn
Bird that is a quarrelling bird
Bird stronger than our misfortunes
Bird on the church and the awning
Bird of France as of yore
Bird of all colors.  - Aragon

Here is a series of roosters by Russian painter Serguei Toutounov who was born in Moscow, Russia, in 1958 in a family of painters.  He married a French woman of Russian ancestry and now they live in France.

The year of the Fire Rooster is said to be a year of emotions, a complex and complicated year.  I hope your year will be serene.

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