The American Spirit
Emma Lazarus wrote, “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-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
She wrote these words as part of a poem to raise money for the base of the Statue of Liberty. After the statue was erected the poem fell from popularity. But in the early 1900’s some of Lazarus’ friends started a drive to have the sonnet placed on the base of the Statue of Liberty. This took place after the poet had passed away.
It was these words that many of our forefathers remembered as they passed over Ellis Island on their way to a new life here in America. It seems to this writer that Emma and her friends would be shocked and confused at the fervor to now keep immigrants out of America. After all it has been precisely those waves upon wave of immigrants which have driven American economic power and growth not only at home but throughout the world. Have we as Americans come so far that we now turn away the tired, poor and huddled masses yearning to breath free?
What have we to fear from further economic power and growth? Is that the reason we turn children escaping Central American gang violence away? To prevent our own economic power and growth? Must we really fear children who turn themselves in at the border? Must we really blame an American President for an act of self-preservation on the part of children and young adults? Can we not imagine how desperate those children must be to cross the length of Mexico on a freight train, facing persecution, extortion and the very real possibility of death on the journey to come to a land that offers the tired, poor and huddled masses a haven on a storm tossed sea? Have we truly lost our ability for compassion?
How can we support the cruelty of turning away over 50,000 children from our borders because we have developed immigrant-phobia? How can we, a country formed entirely of immigrants, be that inhumane to anyone, much less an immigrant child seeking asylum from a violent death in his very home? Have we become that blind? That violent? I doubt that. I think that the American Spirit lives and breaths and will not stand idly by and watch anyone be turned away from our borders to face a violent death in their homes. I think that the American Spirit will find a way to support those children and nurture their desire to join us as proud Americans in their own right.by John Worthington, author of “The Office of Shaman”