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I always enjoy the bit in "Planet Of The Apes" where a loinclothed Charlton Heston falls to his knees as he comes face to face with a shattered Statue of Liberty poking out of the sand and realizes that the eponymous simian planet is, in fact, his own – or was. Also the bit in "Independence Day" where Lady Liberty gets zapped by space aliens. And in "Cloverfield" when she's decapitated by a giant monster. And in "The Day After Tomorrow" when she's flash-frozen after polar ice-cap melting brought on by a speech from Dick Cheney. I've been enjoying such moments, since, oh, the short story "The Next Morning" in the 1887 edition of Life, illustrated with a pen-and-ink drawing of a headless statue with the smoldering rubble of the city behind her. The poor old girl was barely off the boat from France, and she'd already been pegged as the perfect visual shorthand for societal collapse.
But the United States Postal Service has now gone the Hollywood apocalyptics one better and produced a somewhat subtler image of civilizational ruin. The other day the post office apologized for its new stamp honoring Lady Liberty. Due to an unfortunate error, the stamp shows not the 19th century Statue of Liberty that stands in New York Harbor but the 1990s replica that stands at the New York-New York hotel and casino in Las Vegas.
An ersatz statue of pseudo-liberty standing guard over the world's biggest gambling operation: What better way to round out a week in which the Republicans pretended to pass the most historically historic budget cut in history while the president pretended to come up with a plan to address the debt? All while pretending to wage a war in Libya whose most likely outcome seems to be that the only Arab dictator to sleep soundly in his bed at night during these turbulent times will be doing so under cover of a NATO no-fly zone for the rest of his 75-year term of office. In such a world, the USPS, bless 'em, has come up with a far more plausible emblem of societal devastation than Hollywood's space monsters and climate-change fairies.
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