On a visit to the Statue of Liberty with some international guests this weekend, I noticed a series of poster boards set up just inside the pedestal of the statue. Seeing the official National Park Service emblem and design at the top of each poster, I mentally consigned them to the fetid swamp of “edutainment” that the NPS usually produces and prepared to move on. But it turns out these posters weren’t fun facts about how many golf balls could fit inside Lady Liberty’s left foot or how many kilowatts of energy the torch would produce if it were really aflame.
In fact, they weren’t even about the Statue of Liberty at all. “Barack Obama declares LGBT history month” proclaimed one poster. Another listed landmarks in the LGBT experience, with a newspaper-style treatment of the same-sex marriage law that just passed in New York. Nowhere on the posters did a connection to the Statue of Liberty, New York City, or the national park system appear at all. The poster makers couldn’t even be bothered to make a cheap linguistic attempt to connect LGBT anything with liberty (e.g. gay rights->freedom to marry->civil liberties->Statue of Liberty). As tawdry as such an attempt would have been, at least it would have given the posters a fig-leaf raison d’etre.
The result instead is ideological propaganda distilled to its purest form. Sure, the declaration of LGBT history month has absolutely nothing to do with this park or its iconic statue, but what does that matter? What’s important is that the 3000 daily visitors to the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty need to know that to be an American means celebrating and fighting for the ability of the LGBT community to do whatever they want (get married) and not to do whatever they don’t want (get married).
I rather hope that using tax dollars to plug unconnected ideological causes at national parks doesn’t become a trend. What’s next? A stern lecture about proper condom use at the Liberty Bell? A triumphant display of abortion-rights options at Yosemite? Informative posters about socialized medicine at the Grand Canyon?