produced this photographic sketch of a young teacher and
her forty-one children studying the only replica
of the Liberty Bell in Albay, the Philippines.
Two decades ago your class clustered around this Bicol
reproduction, mounted on whitewashed pedestal, anchored
on taupe muzzled stones like those from a New England wall.
Two decades ago this quartersized mirror masterpiece
served as a mere, monumental desk for the sharp scribing
of the facts of liberty: hung in and rung in to
proclaim the Declaration of Independence, hidden
in Allentown, PA, cracked in and cracked again, cracked by
fire, riot, holocaust, genocide and war, cracked by
imperialists, barons and segregationists, cracked
by dark depression and dreams deferred, cracked by an atoms
fission cracking, cracked by Booth, Oswald, Sirham and Ray,
deliverers of death to liberty. Did your students
copy the image, hung within a white concrete tulip,
cracked in candescence, cracked brown delta mud, under the
volcano, listening to the Pacific and the blue,
blue Philippine Sea? Hear it ring and store its secret. Two
decades ago one crew-cut boy climbed above the rests, on
the pedestal, reached out, fingered the jagged cut of the
ball. You were not alarmed. Six years before you stood on the
same pale monument, part of one of the earliest
student demonstrations, damming the venal bus owners
for raising the fare by five centavos. The price, the cost
of freedom, is up ten times that again these firm two decade
later. Your student: on a monument, in the hills, in
the military or does he stay at home hoping the price
of copra will rise and the price of dry fish will fall?
Behind your field trip, across the square, a rectangular
government building the Land Commission. Your group does not
notice the two officers poised in the wood-framed door
observing youths absorption of liberty. Inside
this official outpost, your familys rented hectares
of green rice land transferred from the untouched palm of one
Manila landlord to the absent grasp of another as
a new dynasty rises. Decades of harvest vanish
before you can stand again on libertys replica
and shout. All who are photographed are uniformed. Boys in
gray pants and white tee-shirts. Girls in gray check and white
Pans. Teachers in gray skirts and white blouses. A country
in uniform. Office employees in natural shades.
Bank employees in peach. Nuns and priests in brown, and white, and
black. Gray executives and cabinet officers
in barong tagalogs. Soldiers in sweaty khaki. Who
replicates liberty? Liberty is not subject to
restriction. It calls, Act in a manner of your own
choosing, not colorless servitude and uniforms, and
occupied land no longer. The photo shows our demurred.
The armature of your sunglasses slipped into the
Cleavage of your blouse; the lenses resting between your breasts.
A small libertry. Americas flaws, stateside brass bell,
replicated in this Asian English-speaking land,
this Christian land, this land of guns and oligarchies and bases
And whores and civil war and exposed poverty, this
Land of savaged environments and paid assassins,
this land of pearls and smiles and fiestas. Slow yellow blooms,
as the tight grip loosens, as insurgents find a warm hand
willing to touch in the tempest. You produce a real
liberty, more concrete than the white stone and plated bell.
We dare not forget the profiles of courage
of the individual to think his own thought.