What have we lost by denying America’s promise to the world?
Our nation has often ignored its fundamental moral imperative. The compact of hope America made with the downtrodden people of all nations, while never executed perfectly, is under attack again. Since we began appropriating this land from its native inhabitants 500 years ago, we have concurrently invited and rejected others from joining this experiment in democracy. Generations of newcomers were pushed aside into slums, conscripted in military service, or for millions of others, stolen, sold, and forced into slavery.
Yes, America is a nation of immigrants despite the fact that we treat those who come here like threatening, diseased, sub-humans to be feared. The message we are telling them in this chapter of America’s story reads like this, “You will attack us. You will rape us. You will take our jobs. You will diminish us. You are not welcome.”
This cynical and loathsome attitude toward humanity has infected and divided our country. Based on a worldview of scarcity we push others away, grasping onto the belief that what we have will be lost if others have it as well. It is exceptionally un-American at its core. We have made promises to generations of hopeless peoples around the globe. Promises of freedom, liberty, opportunity, and new beginnings. But that promise never included a risk-free life, ease, or guarantee of cultural continuity.
Those who want a nation in which they are the last recipients of the American dream, in their hatred of others who sacrifice all to come here as well, have no understanding of this nation’s true strength: we are everyone from everywhere.
At times we openly welcomed people not born here. For this reason we placed a permanent signal to the people of earth on our shores, by the very gateway to America. “The New Colossus” a poem written by Emma Lazarus was placed at the base of The Statue of Liberty as a clarion call to all who seek a place where they can live as they choose. No other nation on earth, before or since, has made such a daring, visible statement to people yearning for a better life.
Are we now ready to dismiss that which made us who we are? Is it time to remove what Lady Liberty is saying? For if we do, how long will it be until she becomes nothing but a relic of a long forgotten idea?
“The New Colossus”
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”