In the poem “New Colossus” Emma Lazarus penned lines which have become to so many the very epitome of what the USA stands for.
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!”
How tragically ironic then to read that in the aftermath of the atrocities in Paris on Friday 14 November, that more than half of the Governors of American States had declared that they did not want to accept any more refugees into their backyards. Having had a very quick look through Google, I could not find anything to suggest that they were of Native American stock.
I hear the unspeakable overcomb calling for Muslims to be subject to new data bases and their Mosques “surveilled”. And I, like many others, wonder when he will call for them to be forced to wear a red crescent on their sleeve! This, from someone who boasts of his heritage on this side of the Atlantic! And yet people say “the Americans do not do irony”.
I see Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey call for a “no fly zone” in Syria when the terrorists have no aircraft. So who are you going to stop flying? I hear him refuse to answer the simple question of the future of the 75 Syrian refugees who are currently living in New Jersey. Will he try to throw them out? His answer is to impose a no fly zone in Syria?
What on earth has the Republican Party sunk to when such moral and intellectual pygmies are running as potential Presidential Candidates? The rabid right truly has taken control of that particular asylum! Trump, Carson, Christie, Huckabee. Kasich, Paul, Rubio and Cruz etc. You can see the paths of immigrants to the USA, but not a trace of Native Americans, in their names. How sad that the right wing of politics in the US, like the UK, has become obsessed with the idea of raising the drawbridge of opportunity after they have crossed to the new world.
Now there is of course a huge difference between migrants who come wanting to start a new life and refugees who are fleeing war, persecution and terror. At least there is today, but when Lazarus penned those words, when they were inscribed on “Lady liberty”, there was no such distinction.
I was wondering just how many of these Governors would even be in the US if previous generations had taken the same eyes closed and mind shut stance. How much of the economic power which America has, and with it the often wielded military muscle, would exist if the parents, grandparents etc of the current generation had been told to stay on this side of the Atlantic. Rather than having “your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” tossed and blown across the seas whether from Bodrum to Kos, from Libya to Lampedusa or from Europe to the New World.
I saw a friend’s post on Face Book the other day just after the Paris attack. She spoke of watching from her new home in Bodrum, in Turkey, as fathers, mothers and children gathered on the beach awaiting their turn to risk the short sea crossing to Greece. Of her anguish knowing that some of them may not, probably would not, make it across. Of wondering how desperate a mother must be to load her infant children onto those boats.
Mothers who know full well the risks and the dangers of going on. But more fearful of the risks and dangers of going back. More fearful of the roaming terrorist gangs but even more fearful of their own Government in Syria.
My friend is a very proud of being English as is her family. They are all white, rooted in the North of England for generations but seeking a new and better life in Turkey. They speak of the welcome they have received from locals and other uk migrants alike (yeah, I know many like to use “expats” but I prefer to use the same language for all).
The rabid right, on both sides of the Atlantic, are happy to send in the bombs, impose economic sanctions and Trade embargoes. But they refuse to accept that such actions will inevitably increase the numbers of tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free”.
“Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
The wretched refuse of your foreign policies!