The Old Colossus


Earlier this year, in one of my periodic forays into trying to memorize poetry, I encountered Emma Lazarus's "The New Colossus," the poem written for the unveiling, and inscribed on the base, of the Statue of Liberty—"Mother of Exiles." It's worth a read, if you haven't read it in a while (or ever). It's a pretty powerful piece, I think; it always gives me goosebumps (though that may be only because my own grandparents were among the "homeless, tempest-tossed" who sailed into New York Harbor in the early 20th century, and I can't help but think of them floating past the "lamp beside the golden door").

"The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus

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-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

The saddest part of our current political climate, for me, is the realization that so many of my fellow citizens don't share in the vision that I always thought was pretty central—along with a written constitution, an independent judiciary, the separation of powers and the First Amendment—to what made this country such a great one. As Donald Trump put it, "We take anybody. Come on in, anybody. Just come on in. Not anymore."

And it does make me wonder—is there any data out there correlating the number of, say, one's great-grandparents who were born overseas with the likelihood that one is supporting Trump over Clinton? I could be wrong, but it certainly seems to me that people who think of themselves (as I do) as being part of an "immigrant" stream couldn't be responding at all well to Trump's heated immigration rhetoric, if only because they see themselves and their families in his cross hairs.