What has happened to America? What has happened to the America of our past that was so eloquently memorialized in the Emma Lazarus poem on the Statue of Liberty? “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.”
Well, I guess our lady of liberty has seen the lamp’s light turn off. The flame of liberty at best is barely flickering. America, the America that has taken in the world’s refuse and huddled masses has a new sign up, no children wanted. Young children by the thousands are coming to America seeking refuge, asylum from the murderous streets of Honduras and El Salvador.
Where has the America gone that took in the boat people from Cuba and Vietnam? President Obama and the Republicans are singing a very similar song. There is only a small difference between the two sides. Obama wants to follow the law and send the teeming masses of children back through the deportation process and the right-wing, super-duper, alleged political party of Evangelical Christians want to send them back, now, immediately, without a hearing. So much for Christian charity! Look out now don’t look at ourselves too closely, the shining city on the hill that we like to think of ourselves as, has lost its luster. The light is dimming, growing ever more faint.
What has happened to the generous and kind America who rebuild Europe and who has sent aid in the millions of dollars to disaster victims around the world? I guess as the song says long time passing. We are changing. We no longer send help automatically to our own when a hurricane hits or a tornado rips through a town. We are asking how much does it cost? We are becoming morally bankrupt, not financially bankrupt. Even though these children who arrive in Texas have survived a perilous journey and their return may mean death to many of the children, we don’t care. These children are not coming here to take our jobs, to pick strawberries we won’t pick, or clean toilets we won’t clean or pick apart chickens for starvation wages, no they are coming here because they are hungry and their parents are scared that they will die in the killing fields of Central America. Honduras is the murder capital of the world and El Salvador and Guatemala are close behind. We are willing to take in special visa individuals who bring with them money and or a skill that we need but no children, send them back.
We profess to the world through our war machine that we want to bring democracy to the world, but we won’t pay to take children out of dog like cages that you would find at the pound to process them.
Who are we? Are we the Americans who have been described by Alexis de Tocqueville as being a people who are constantly looking to see what’s in it for us or are we still the kind and generous people that became the landing spot for countless millions of people seeking the light of Lady Liberty. There are still people, children, who are seeking refuge for the night, refuge from murder and hunger, seeking sanctuary and asylum from the horrors of life. Perhaps it is time to leave the light off, and let the Statue of Liberty rust. I hope that we can leave the lamp lit and still pay the bill. Are we still be the last best hope of mankind? But for all of the talk and anger we see regarding the children that are at our door, it is up to us to decide who we are as Americans. I hope that we find our soul and be the hope that we can be and have been. Life can be a dark place. But we can light the way and still save the sparrow.