Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The New Colossus

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!"
Emma Lazarus, 1883 av JC


In general, I avoid issues of immigration.

In Flatbush, Brooklyn, there stands a home built by a couple of indentured servants of Dutch extraction. It is the oldest frame house in America, iirc, and is known as the PIETER CLAESEN WYCKOFF HOUSE. My family traces its roots back to that home on one side, descended from one of the ten children of Pieter and his wife Grietje. While writing this, I googled a bit:

I was raised to be proud of my family. To remember an care for my heritage. One of the more damaging aspects of my becoming something of a black sheep in the family is that with the passing of my mother, I became the custodian of the family archives. The full extent of our family history.  IT made sense at the time - I knew it better than anyone in the family, and I'm told I have a penchant for bringing dry stuff to life and fire.

That puts my family history in North America back to the early 1600's.

On another side, the lineage falls back into the early 1800's, but literally dries up trying to go back before 1812, because bluntly, there's no information available.

On my father's side, we have long questioned the authenticity of what little information we do know, and, since all the principles who did have any clue are dead at this point, well, its a bit of a challenge.  But, it goes something like this: Around World War I, a Oglala Lakota Sioux member reportedly related to crazy horse joined the United States Army and traveled to Morocco at some point, where he met and married a wife that he then brought back home to the United States. Their son was my father.  He was a singer, who had 1 little hit in the 50's ("G' ling G' ling Gee Gee", but also "tease me").

That would put me into the category of going even further back in the United States. What's interesting is that thanks to my personal issues, I've had cause to have my schtuff checked, and the only trace to Africa for me is Moroccan. Nothing notably south.

So I'm aligned as a native child (I consider myself an Arizonan first, American second), and then also a proud "old timer" family wise.  I've got at least as much historical cache as the Mayflower folks in terms of immigration and settling.

Then I up and married a second generation Mexican. :D  Needless to say, my family hasn't ever really put much stock in the whole "own kind" thing.


Lately, I've been involved in Topix a great deal -- I'll back off again here shortly, as there are money issues still popping up -- and, among the threads there, is one regarding an Ugandan woman seeking Asylum here in the states.

In reading a couple of the threads, I am struck by some of the postings asking, basically, why we should grant her asylum.  Her reason is persecution in her homeland.

I'm an admitted jingoist. I love my country. I love the history and favor of it, I live the whole madness of it, the big things and little things.

I love symbols, as well.

One of our symbols is the Statue of Liberty. These days, most folks just think of her as "some big ass statue in new york". But she's a lot more than that.

I've never been to see her.  Its something I would like to do one day.

She was brought to this country to celebrate Republicanism (something that many Americans these days have absolutely no clue about -- and believe me, it shows when you start to talk about rights and see the word "democratic" thirty freaking times in a row), but that's not what she ended up standing for.

When She arrived in this Country, she was christened "Liberty Enlightening The World".  Making her and getting her here was an enormous feet for the time and day, involving many years and a sea trip that was basically described as pretty much almost a disaster.

She was built using donated money by French Citizens.  The United States was unable to actually buy her.  We had to build the base for her, though, and for years there was a great deal of concern over the waste of money or the reason for us to build something that was being built by foreigners who still hadn't figured out how to set up their own country.

One of the more famous stories of the fund raising was the newspaper request for pennies. It's true, and William Pulitzer, iirc, was instrumental in getting those pennies.

During that fundraising campaign, there was am Auction performed to raise funds. The poem, above was used then. It soon fell from memory, until just after dedication, and was affixed to the statue's base (inside the Pedestal) in 1903.

She faces the sea. Intentionally. She is a symbol of Freedom and Liberty, and Hope, and Safety.

She represents the United States. Who we are, and why we are here.

I believe too many people have forgotten that. Too many people dismiss all of it as sentimental nonsense -- after all, those ideals are all nice and fine, but we do have a country to run here.

I'm sure that Pieter Wyckoff felt the same. After all, who needs ideals. Like Liberty, Justice, Freedom.



They say she shouldn't be allowed, these Americans. They say a lot of things.

And I look to that poem above, and I shake my head. They say everything that shouldn't be said. Everything that is wrong and cruel and mean and so similar to the words once used so long ago to others, who had no source of refuge.

And so they had to go and start anew, in  a wild place. Many died. Entire Towns seemingly vanished.

And as it grew, they remembered.

As do I.

It is unAmerican. We are the land of freedom, not the land of fascist border walls and denial.

I just wish we'd remember it sometimes.


Anonymous said...

That poem ceased to be relevant the day we enacted immigration laws. We no longer have room for the world's mistreated. There are hundreds of millions of them.


hazel8500 said...

This was a wonderful post. I was just thinking about Lady liberty the other day, and what she symbolizes. In reading this entry I almost for a second thought maybe you and I are related as my fathers family is long ensconced on Lafayette (Brooklyn Baby) and we seem to have a very similar history from what you've written here.

I was born and raised North of the boarder, but absolutely adore all things New York, including the Lady herself.

Now that My elders have passed I'm the one who ended up with the the family histories, exactly because I Got It.

Anyway, loved this post, did I already say that?