On my system running Lion (10.7.4), the command
sudo chflags -h nohidden /etc revealed the
/etc folder at the top level of my hard drive.
-h flag to
chflags makes it act on a symbolic link rather than on the linked file.
man page for
chflags states "Unless the -H or -L options are given, chflags on a symbolic link always succeeds and has no effect." The behavior I observe when I run it is not consistent with this description: I very much do see an effect when I run
chflags on this particular symlink.
If that solution doesn't work for you, or if you don't want to make /etc visible to all users on your system but you do want to easily navigate there in the Finder and in Open, Save, etc. dialog boxes, you could run a command like
ln -s /etc ~/etc. That would create a (visible) symbolic link to the
/etc directory in your home directory. When you double click it, it would open the
/etc directory (actually the
/Private/etc directory because
/etc is a symlink thereto in OS X).