Posted in Black Lives Matter, DACA/Dreamers, Donald Trump, immigration, Politics

The Mother of Exiles

Illegal sign
If so, then why not me?

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!”

This is the entire statue of liberty poem, written by Emma Lazarus. It basically tells the rich to stay home and the poor, “the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore,” to come here. Come to America. The poem was written by Emma Lazarus, as part of an overall effort to raise money for a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. the “mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name MOTHER OF EXILES.”

In those days, we stretched an open hand to immigrants, now we’ve turned that hand into a fist to exile our own people – the children of immigrants who came to the US as children and who grew up and thrived here. Now they’re people from “shithole” countries, according to the President, who’d prefer rich, white Europeans like Norwegians. They’ve shut down the government over it – leadership by a 5-year-old having a temper tantrum.

I cringe at Trump’s words, rage as his vacillation as he changes his mind from hour to hour, blowing up one bipartisan funding plan after another. First he says yes, I’ll sign a bill that protects dreamers if you give me funding for the wall. A few hours later, he says no, he doesn’t want more people from those shithole countries. What he really means is pretty obvious. I’ll take white people, but black and brown people can suck the air for all he cares. Racism. Our President is an open, hostile racist and the entire country is paying the price for his attitude and behavior.

Trump as an anti-immigration baby
Me, me, me first!

I’m appalled by our current political situation, in ways that I haven’t been before. At the same time, I feel an obligation as an American citizen – the granddaughter of immigrants myself – to clean up the mess the President and his spineless and greedy Republican majority are making. Talk about shit. All they did this year was vote themselves a tax cut, all the while under-staffing critical government positions, packing the courts with right-wing judges, trying to rescind access to health care and blame our problems on illegal immigrants trying to make a living by picking our vegetables and taking the worst jobs at the lowest level of pay. And that’s just skimming the surface. I could list the damage the Republicans have done for another hour. And now we don’t have a government. And they’re blaming the Democrats (who are finally showing some spine, thank you very much) when the Republican party controls all three branches of government.

Statue of Liberty
She weeps

I feel very strongly about the dreamers, maybe because of my own immigrant background. These are folks who grew up in this country and who have little – or no – ties to the countries their parents came from. They’ve done absolutely nothing wrong. They grew up here. They fucking grew up here. Same as me. English is their native language, the US is their home. Some of them didn’t even know they were “illegal” until they tried to get a driver’s license or go to college. They’re in the military. They own businesses. And even if they don’t, even if they’re truck drivers or meat packers, they’re one of us and we take care of our own. Or we should. Maybe that’s a white, middle-class perspective. It doesn’t look to me like communities of color get the same treatment. Black Lives do Matter and don’t give me that crap about how all lives matter. Some lives seem to matter more than others and immigrant lives matter even less than that. I’m furious but I’m also in pain, because I happen to love this country – despite its faults. I am angry at the people who are, basically, taking a dump on it. We’re better than this. I am an American and we’re not that way. I’m not that way. I would have to deny everything that I am to be that way.

We are all immigrants. Mine came from Poland. They came here for the same reasons immigrants have always come here, to step out of poverty and avoid the violence killing everybody else. I’m proud of my heritage, but I am an American. How would I feel if the government suddenly decided that I was illegal and had to leave? I don’t speak Polish, I’ve only been there once. It’s not my home and it’s not my culture. I carry threads of it throughout my life, particularly during holidays. I’m proud of my Polish heritage, but I am not Polish. I am an American. And so are the dreamers.