04 November 2011

Freedom fries

(This is a sketch of a post. The rest...later).

I used to actually hear that, fairly frequently, in 2001 and 2002. Somehow, that was a response to my being French.

It's an interesting word, "freedom."

It has a number of negative connotations for me now. "Operation Iraqi Freedom." et al. (not going into that now). It's a way to wrap things in the flag. That flag.

"Land of the free, home of the brave."

from Emma Lazarus, as engraved in the pedestal of 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-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

from Tom Petty, "Free Fallin'" (incidentally, excellent Americana song, too..)

"And I'm free, free fallin' "

As one who's been in freefall, before, I preferred parachuting down (skydiving). Freefall is too fast. In sixty seconds (less? I don't remember) we descended 5000 feet or so. However the physics works out from starting at 13,500 feet and parachuting from somewhere around 6000.

It was too fast to experience, really - that would take another jump, but as - even if I jumped tomorrow, it would be 6.5 years later - might be like starting over again. Freefall. Fun? How would you remember? Too much to process, see (and I had to adjust my goggles; seemed like they were going to fall off. I do remember that).


I was at Riker's Island today. Famous NYC jails (and poss prison too? unclear). Tens of thousands of detainees/inmates/incarcerated...today was my second time doing any sort of prison work; I'm just starting to learn the language. I'm working with the NYC Dept of Health, and, in particular, with Harm Reduction services. Every month, we go to Riker's to teach about harm reduction, clean needles/syringe exchange on the outside, hepatitis C, and, today, overdose prevention and treatment with naloxone. It was wonderful to get back to that work.

Being in a prison is incredibly strange - the checks, the IDs, the leave-everything-including-everything, all the bars opening and closing behind us.

I had done that before. And the similarities with psychiatric wards, also (they're co-morbidities, anyway) are fascinating...

That's not the point.

On the bus to Riker's (MTA bus goes directly there, from Queens), you pass La Guardia Airport. And then thirty seconds later you're on Riker's Island.

People worry about planes landing in the water? They could just as easily, truly, land on Riker's, on any of the jail complexes. It's an unbelievably short distances. The planes were, essentially, there. Everyone's looking for the NYC skyline as they land - who sees Riker's? Notices? I never did.

What could symbolize more freedom? International airport, busy, restricted to people with some amount of money/privilege, vacation vs business vs...

airplanes. coming. going. landing. taking off.

Right over Riker's.

As to Emma Lazarus and "The New Colossus" - the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are well-within view of downtown Manhattan. I remember the towering displays of suitcases at Ellis Island. But then - and now. Now. "Give me your..." to whom, for whom, and for what reason? It's not Arizona in most of the country, certainly. But the sentiment...is so ...condescending. "Wretched refuse"? Wretched how and in whose eyes? "We" certainly take people with very diverse backgrounds - including very high levels of formal education, wherever they come from - and say those things don't count. At all. Redo, redo, redo. Or pretend "whatever" wasn't done at all. In medicine, the ones who get counted as doctors (after however many years of practice, retaking boards exams, and entering the Match) go where students from American med schools don't want to. For the most part.

"Give me your tired, your poor..."
Wretched. Demeaned. Demoralized. Dehumanized.

"Send these, the homeless... to me"
Because other homes aren't a home.

"I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
And try to see inside. Gold, shut tight; if it's pure, maybe the lamp will melt some of it and allow an opening, an acquiescing, a bending.

For Riker's Island, over 20,000 people, there was no evacuation plan during the hurricane. As stated, it's essentially sea level. At La Guardia.

In French, "La liberté éclairant le monde" - liberty lighting the world.
Floodlights that can be seen...well, across a large river and probably farther.
After all, electricity is an unlimited resource, not a commodity.

Let freedom ring.


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