A Point of View © 1996
“A Lady in distress”
By Paul V. Montesino, Ph.D,MBA, ICCP.
In the nineteen seventies, as a senior operations manager in charge of my company’s computer based operating systems, I and other colleagues attended an American Bankers Association (ABA) Operations conference in Washington D.C. It used to be an annual event. It probably is these days; banking regulations don’t change much, but bankers do and have to be educated.
The conference took place at the same Washington Hilton hotel where a serious attempt, fortunately unsuccessful, against the life of President Ronald Reagan would take place several years later. Around the time of our presence in Washington, then President Jimmy Carter had signed into law the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) that intended to encourage depository institutions (banks) to meet the credit needs of low-and moderate-income neighborhoods.
The last day of the conference, at a general audience luncheon where Tom Brokaw, the respected NBC television journalist and author acted as the keynote speaker, we went through a disturbing and unexpected experience. Several community groups who had organized and coordinated their activities to demand a meeting that day with the President of the ABA to discuss the CRA Act, locked the doors of the huge dining room and kept us “hostages” and wouldn’t let us out unless their demands were honored.
In addition to the risks to fire that the large audience was exposed, the yelling and screaming made the scary situation worse. The President of the ABA met with the demonstrators, the doors were unlocked and we returned home shaken but sound. I never knew what agreement was reached between the President of the ABA and the demonstrators to cool off the situation.
I am sure I don’t have to prepare you for what is coming, you probably guessed it. The January six attack of our capitol in Washington D.C. by an unruly mob that ended with six deaths and plenty of damage and arrests cannot be compared with our bloodless experience in 1977, but it can give me and those who went through our own “invasion” a bitter taste that we didn’t need as a reminder of the past, a lesson for the present or a prediction for the future.
Watching the video clips of the recent incident I noticed a scruffy woman amongst the demonstrators who was probably in her late sixties or early seventies, dressed with unkempt clothes, a fake crown over her head and a lightless torch in one of her hands, all to make her look like famed New York’s Statue of Liberty. Watching her demeanor and those who had joined her to disgrace our Capitol for their narrow political purposes I came to a sad conclusion: Lady Liberty is in distress these days.
If you sail the waters or fly the air in New York Harbor, chances are that you cannot avoid seeing the statue of Lady Liberty, the famous statue donated by the French to the United States who illuminates the nights with the torch it carries in its right hand and carries a tablet with the date of our Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776, on the left. It is difficult to see that Lady Liberty is also wearing shackles on her feet, shackles symbolic of the freedom from oppression that America is supposed to represent.
But the distress I see is not caused by the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on December 7, 1941 that started Second World War or the attack by the Germans to Black Tom, New Jersey, once a small island, that was “the most important assembly and shipping center in America for munitions and gunpowder being sent to the Allies in Europe during the First World War. The site is part of New Jersey’s Liberty State Park, and nearby at the Statue of Liberty, a legacy of the disaster remains: Due to the damage the statue sustained on July 30, 1916, its torch had been closed to the public for a century. (Reference: An explosion that initially looked like an accident, turned out to be an act of sabotage. ELIZABETH NIX, History Website.)” The distress I am talking about is caused by internal fractures of the meaning of the Lady’s essence. What it means for all of us, not just some of us.
I’ve been writing for Rumbo or my own Internet Web site for twenty five years, and I never write about political controversies, particularly those that can be resolved in our elections. We have our own opinions like we have our own toes, ten as a matter of fact, and I am not ready to start today and change my practice to gain kudos from one side or the other. That is childish, insecure, and dishonest.
But having come from a country where political arguments were settled with guns or time in prison has told me that violence only begets violence. America evolved from an armed rebellion against the British, but no new armed rebellion is going to evolve into a new America, it’s going to destroy the old one, the one you, I and our descendants deserve. Our War of Independence was a war against tyranny, not in its favor. John F. Kennedy had a favorite quote attributed erroneously to Dante’s Inferno: “The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality.” This is one of those times. God Save Lady Liberty and all that she represents.
And that is my Point of View today.