Today’s Google image of the statue of Liberty being given to America some 130 year ago reminded me of our ever present pursuit of Liberty.
And in my walking about, I remembered the visit I had at Runnymede to see the other place of Birth of Modern Liberty — the unassuming field of Runnymede where the first Modern Era Charter of Liberties came into being.
Truly where the Modern Liberty came into existence.
It was the Kennedy memorial in England — and it all came together right then and there…
It all gelled for me that day, because the pursuit of Liberty on behalf of the American people is the Reason why JFK was killed. But he died a Free Man and the Leader of a Free People — and am reminded of this right here, walking softly uphill.
And the famed Kennedy belief that Liberty & Democracy is something worth fighting and dying for, some fifty years ago, is echoed in a single line threading it’s way down History all the way from the first Colonist, to the American Revolution, to the US Independence, to the US Constitution, to the Emancipation Proclamation, and the UN charter of Human Rights — and in all the living documents that make this Life worth living.
But this pursuit of Liberty exists also in the old written English Constitution called the “Magna Carta” A written and unwritten constitution of Liberties that was discussed, agreed upon in principle, drafted in ten copies and signed by the spiritual, and secular Leaders of Old England and by the King, some 800 years ago.
And as that time approaches again — the Time that we need to rise and fight again for Liberty & Democracy, against those that wish to usurp our Powers — it’s Good to remember this early English Constitution, that is as relevant today as it ever was.
Liberty, was something worth fighting for against the Germans in 1940, and on many other instances we had to go to war to preserve it across the Globe. And we might have to do this again willingly — because we all know that Liberty is won through blood, toil, and tears.
And every generation has it’s own burden to bear and fight to wage… So maybe it’s our turn to fight for it now.
For me the era of the Kennedy White House is the most glorious era of Modern American History as it was all full of promise, movement, and disappointment, but it propelled Progress forward like a Moonshot.
And as I am journeying through England on a journey down the Magna Carta and the place where it came into being, the muddy field of Runnymede — I run into the Kennedy Memorial too, that is just a short walk from Runnymede on the banks of the river towards the wood uphill.
Runnymede the muddy field by the river where the First Liberties were enshrined in Law — is a commemoration to the moment when Britain became great, because it’s people yearned to be Free. This is the first time they got Liberty
The signing and sealing of the Magna Carta – “the Great Charter of Liberty” – came to being some 800 years ago today, and it effectively ripped-up the idea that Kings or Tyrant, or the Executive, have an invincible and divine right to rule, and established the contemporary powers of Democratic Parliament and the laws that continue to protect and liberate us today.
Because it’ good to remember that when our rights are infringed, when the powerful hurt u and humiliate us, when we seek justice, when we challenge things that are patently unfair…. it is always the Magna Carta we turn to. Because that is the basis of our Human Rights today…
And it is because of the Magna Carta that, in 2003, more than Three million of us British people, we were able to come together and walk the streets of London in order to protest against the impending Iraq war.
It’s the Magna Carta that means we can legally fight again human injustice inflicted upon us by more powerful individuals such as Rape, Sexual Assault, and harassment in the workplaces, instances of discrimination, cases where a severely disabled person is confined at home, or when the Black people are confined away from voting booths, or the poor are disenfranchised in heavily gerrymandered districts, having to prove that they are Citizens in order to vote…
And in all those instances when the powerful trample upon the right of the powerless.
Tragically, it is the Magna Carta that has ultimately allowed us to vote. Period. But many of us — we forget to exercise that bloody Right intelligently, and we end up with Tyrants at the helm of democratic countries. That’s how Hitler came to power and so many other unspeakable criminals…
The year 1215 is not only a significant date in British history, but in the history of the world. When, in 1948, the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Eleanor Roosevelt expressed her hope that it would become “the international Magna Carta of all men everywhere”. And, in the shadow of the second world war and the Holocaust, it was the tenets of the Magna Carta that guided the hand of Sir David Fyfe, as he drafted the European convention on human rights. The Human Rights Act of 1998 enshrines that convention into UK law.
And maybe some day it will be enacted into the US legal cannon too.
And John Fitzgerald Kennedy — a Man well ahead of his Time — attempted to do the same through the Civil Rights Laws in America, back during the violent sixties. Rightfully He is remembered in this field, because this magical connection with Runnymede and the Charter of Liberties we call “Magna Carta” is a fitting tribute for this Champion of Freedom and Democracy.
So walk with me a bit further uphill and under the thick foliage, because as we leave the field of Runnymede and pass through the thick forest woods we are inspired to think of History driving us through the Dark Times in order to appreciate the Days when the Dawn of Light comes again…. away from the gathering clouds.
It is the same here, when we pass through the dark wood and cross the wicket gate from the meadow, and we enter the allegory of life, death, and spirit, that JFK’s legacy represents for all of us today.
And as we begin to climb the steep pathway of granite steps winding through the woodland, one can’t help but count and remember that there are 50 steps, reflecting the number of American states. And that each step is unique and so is each of the stone which make up that step. And the more than 60,000 stone setts, are representing the multitude of people visiting on their way upward.
This i an uplifting place hoping to elevate all of us to our highest ideals.
The woodland, surrounding and enclosing the path until it crests the hill, is an important element of the memorial, reminiscent of Dante’s ‘dark wood’. To the weary traveler is found to be typically diverse English woodland, where the easy passing of the seasons reflects life, death and spirit. The dark wood also symbolises virility and the mystery of nature as a life force.
It is a natural ecological system that is largely self-regenerating and with abundant moisture from the River and Rain it grows happy & wild.
The memorial stone itself is a seven-ton block of Portland stone, carved from a fourteen-ton block taken from the same quarry which furnished the stone for St Paul’s Cathedral.
It is imperceptibly curved in all directions so as to correct optical distortion and to give the impression of a great weight floating above the ground, and the sculptor, Alan Collins, spread the lettering across the entire stone to make it appear less like an inscription and more as if the stone itself were speaking. The inscription is from the Declaration of Freedom within President Kennedy’s inaugural address of 20th January, 1961.
Beside the stone is a hawthorn tree. This is a symbol of President Kennedy’s Catholicism. The legend is that all English thorns are descended from the staff planted at Glastonbury by Joseph of Arimathea, who buried Jesus in the tomb he had intended for himself. Equally symbolic, the American Scarlet Oak standing guardian behind the stone comes into full, vivid red, colour at the time of Kennedy’s death in the month of November.
In front of the monument, the granite setts widen and shallow steps invite the observer to pause. The memorial stone itself rests on a granite cushion, representing the shoulders of the multitude; the burden of life can be put down. At this point, all three elements of the analogy of life, death and spirit meet.
To the right of the stone block is a terrace walk. This is deliberately detached from the steps in front of the stone itself so that it appears to lead into the future, like Jacob’s ladder. The walkway leads to the Seats of Contemplation, embedded in the hillside. Here the visitor can sit and enjoy the view, contemplate life and death, and look forward into the future. A ground indentation runs parallel and below the path, in an attempt to rewrite History — for there must be no apparent barriers between American and British soil in the memory of Liberty & Democracy.
When the early colonists arrived in America, they brought with them the principles of the Magna Carta, and later enshrined them into their written and defensible constitution starting with “All Men Are Created Equal”
Indelibly etched on to the Kennedy Memorial are words that are as relevant today as they were 800 years ago, or when JFK uttered them on his Presidential inauguration:
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend or oppose any foe in order to assure the survival and success of liberty.”
The different elements of the Kennedy Memorial are intrinsically part of the natural landscape. The peaceful scene is itself the memorial, and what has been fitted into it is no more than a statement of purpose – an intangible idea that is emphasised by the duality of the elements of Nature and Man.
After all in our World — Man is the Measure of Everything. And in my world — Nature is the measure of Man…
The Person that understands all of this and who cherishes Liberty and Democracy — comes here as a pilgrim but not a tourist. You can come here after visiting Runnymede the birthplace of Magna Carta and modern Liberty to pay homage or to jut float in the sphere of ideas, concepts and Human ideals.
Here, one is invited to experience, to linger, to live through, to walk, to be in silence, to sense, and to feel — but not to just visit…