On a trip to New York City many years ago, one of our vacation destinations was to visit the Statue of Liberty. That symbol of American freedom has stood proudly for more than a century, welcoming millions of visitors from all around the world. Whether they were trying to escape from political or religious persecution or just seeking a better way of life, these huddled masses were greeted by America’s most famous figure of freedom.
We waited several hours before we could board the boat cruise (whoever called a choppy, rough and noisy ride a cruise?) for the trip to Liberty Island to visit the famous Lady. As we wound our way endlessly toward the dock, we had to go through a security checkpoint. You know the routine: empty your pockets, search for weapons. I dutifully emptied my pockets into the little plastic container.
Lo and behold, I was carrying my handy-dandy Swiss army knife; the model type with the nail file, tweezers, toothpick, scissors and a one-and-a-half-inch blade. I stared in disbelief as the security agent told me I was carrying a dangerous weapon and it would have to be confiscated if I wanted to visit the Lady of Liberty. I protested, pointing out that there were more dangerous weapons around. Do you know what damage you could do with a baby stroller or even a pair of eye glasses? My protest fell on deaf ears. I was a danger to the Lady who guarded the harbor!
What nefarious act of terrorism was I going to place on the unsuspecting Lady – give her a pedicure with the file on my multipurpose Swiss army knife, or maybe something more drastic, such as cutting the threads on her copper sheets?
The harried security guard suggested that I could go back up to the park and bury my all-purpose Swiss knife with the one-and-a-half-inch blade and pick it up when I returned from Liberty Island. After spending two-plus hours snaking our way slowly through cattle-like walkways on a hot, sunny afternoon, there was no way I was going to give up my place.
I had carried my Swiss army knife for years. It served me well, whether it was used in the office or around the house. I’ve always considered myself a law-abiding citizen. Nobody considered me a dangerous threat. The U.S. government surely had never considered me a threat. I even served in the military and handled top-secret information and deciphered cryptographic messages, all while carrying my Swiss army knife.
Now there I stood, with hundreds of other hot, tired visitors eying me with suspicion. What was I to do? Was I going to stand on principle, stating that I had the right to bear arms, or give in to the security officer’s demands? What a noble stand I could have made. But the glares from my relatives, who’d had enough of the heat and waiting, caused me to abandon my glorious protest. Reluctantly I handed over my six-function Swiss army knife with the one-and-a-half-inch blade (did I mention that it also had a slot screwdriver?) and wondered what the Lady of Liberty Island would say today.
The Statue of Liberty may have these words inscribed on her tablet: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” … but if you have an all-purpose, six-function, multitool Swiss army knife with a one-and-a-half-inch blade, stay home.
America was able to sleep soundly that night.