*This article is longer than my normal style. The short version is at the bottom.
This statue is prominently displayed on the sidewalk on Fashion Avenue (7th Ave) near 39th Street, a rather affluent area with neighbors like Rockefeller Center Plaza. It pays tribute to the Jewish immigrants who came to America for a new life- just as did immigrants from around the world since before the time the original thirteen colonies were settled.
If I left that paragraph as the sole caption of this photograph, I bet you would walk away feeling good and maybe even have a little more pride in the American Dream. But what about this:
This is a statue depicting a moment in our nation’s brightest dark period: the Industrial Revolution. Specifically, it is a Jewish immigrant working in the garment district, which at the time was generally below 14th Street. During the industrial revolution, Jewish immigrants in New York City produced approximately seventy percent of women’s clothing and a little less than half the men’s clothing for our young nation. Just about all of these textile factories were owned by German Jews, and sources demonstrate that the solemn, tired, worn out appearance of this sculpture was indicative of the sweatshop time period this anonymous man suffered through. The immigrants worked devastatingly long hours in incredibly cramped conditions, with the only relief being on Saturday so they could celebrate the Sabbath with their families before returning to work Sunday morning. You can read more about this, by cliciking here.
So why the dichotomy?
A picture sure is worth a thousand words, but that is the interesting part of it: The photographer has great input in just what those thousand words should be. It does not mean they will be the correct or even the factually accurate thousand words… just look at any Glamour magazine!
This statue and the photograph of it are akin to reading headlines in newspapers or solely watching a news program on television. The producer of each has great input in what you choose to think about the subject. That’s right, television media is the same as reading the headline: it is all just moving pictures. Reading newsprint, in addition to some fact checking through books, interviews, and other written forms are far more rewarding and a far better way to understand true history- if that is what we want. The difference in reading versus watching television is that through reading, we are one hundred percent focused on the material using just one sense. That allows our mind enough time to comprehend, process, and even form opinions while we are reading. The reason why television solely holds entertainment value is that we are overloaded by dividing our visual and auditory systems and force feeding them at 24 frames per second. We simply do not have the cognitive ability to form contemplative thought during the program. So much is lost by the time it is over because we forgot more than we remember. That is why the twenty-four news networks repeat the same headlines over and over again all day long. They are trying to force the mind to do something that a short written article can handle so much better.
TL;DR (Too long, didn’t read)
To walk by this statue lets us say “cool.” To stop for a moment and study it lets us see the yarmulke, and suddenly we have a little more information. Reading a caption on the statue lets us have the knowledge that it depicts Jewish immigrants during the turn of the century in New York City. Through a small amount of study, we learn that it was not all a bed of roses with streets paved with gold.
Can you imagine if we gave this a lot of time to study? I wish I could with this subject, and all other subjects too. But the thing about time is that none of us regular people can afford to take the time- time can only take from us.