As you likely know, the most historic district of Philadelphia has been undergoing renovation for several years. A new Constitution Center has been built; access around Independence Hall has been redirected; and, earlier today, the Liberty Bell was moved to a new location.
The Liberty Bell is one of those symbols whose power is hard to explain, but is undeniable. It hung for a while in Independence Hall. It is cracked. It hasn’t been rung for many years. An inscription from the Book of Leviticus circles the bell near its top: “Proclaim Liberty throughout All the land unto All the Inhabitants Thereof.”
Last Christmas my family visited one of my brothers, who lives in eastern Pennsylvania. We went to Philadelphia to see the historical sites. I was deeply impressed by how the Bell resonated with my children, then aged six to sixteen. Its power as a symbol was brought home to me when I saw how they responded to it. It is, indeed, the bell of freedom, and after we returned home I added the Bell’s inscription to the quotes at the left side of Power Line’s front page.
The moving of the Bell to a new home just a block away went smoothly. But the move was fraught with political significance. A UCLA historian said, “It’s moving a few hundred feet geographically, and a few hundred miles conceptually.” The reason? The Bell’s new home is located close to a site (long since destroyed) where George Washington and John Adams once lived. So what, you ask? Washington once kept slaves there. On this slim reed, an attack–a successful attack–on the Bell was launched.
“After numerous discussions with historians and community groups, park officials agreed to delay the opening and rework the story line planned for the exhibits. As a result, when members of the public enter for the first time at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, they will certainly find a stirring setting for the Liberty Bell…To reach this ethereal, chancellike space, however, visitors pass through an earthly exhibit area that explores not only the promise and achievements but the contradictions and failures of the nation – all embodied in a flawed and ancient artifact.
“…it will acknowledge the presence of racial bondage. It will note that the bell hung in Independence Hall during the Colonial and Revolutionary periods – and also point out that many Founding Fathers, including Washington, owned chattel slaves.” No word on whether it will mention that he freed them.
All this had to be done, we are told, because of “[black] people who have gone to the Liberty Bell and not felt included.”
This betrays, I think, a stunning ignorance of history. The Liberty Bell was little known until it was shown to a group of abolitionists in the 1830’s. They were struck by the universality of its Biblical message and it was they who named it the Liberty Bell. The bell became famous because a prominent abolitionist newspaper put the bell and its inscription on the paper’s masthead.
Given this history, for a black person to say that he “doesn’t feel included” when he contemplates the Liberty Bell is like an Italian claiming to feel excluded on Columbus Day, or a Scandinavian who says he feels “left out” when he goes to a Minnesota Vikings game. Or an Irishman who goes to Notre Dame and….Well, you get the point.
The Liberty Bell is an inspiring symbol. But there are those in America who do not want Americans to be inspired, and they control most of our institutions. Given the chance, they will devalue every one of our national symbols.
Early in the war on terror, it was reported that Islamofascists were plotting to bomb the Liberty Bell. They wanted to destroy it as a potent symbol of American freedom. Turns out they needn’t have bothered. The liberals are doing that for them.
Here it is, the Liberty Bell, the bell of freedom, a “flawed and ancient artifact.” Yes, we’ll agree to that. The Bell will still be here, I predict, inspiring new generations of American children for reasons that we can’t quite express, long after the current nay-sayers have left the scene:
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“Arise and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.” Winston Churchill
“Proclaim Liberty throughout All the land unto All the Inhabitants Thereof.” Inscription on the Liberty Bell