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Thursday, August 3, 2017

America, Where are You Now?

"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!' ”

Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus.

Now, if President Trump has his way we may need to alter those welcoming, beautiful, immortal words. Give us your educated, English speaking middle class, able to buy at least a coach ticket on Jet Blue, you bastards. Just a thought.

I work with two immigrants. They came here to escape the tyranny of Soviet communism. Neither of them spoke English. Both of them came almost penniless, because that is what the Soviets did, they kept everything. "You can leave, but good luck telling what time it is, we are keeping your watch."

These are two of the hardest working people I have ever been around. Nobody I have ever worked with took more pride in a job well done. Give either a task and they work machine like, steady, unrelenting, inexorable until it is finished. Then they ask for another, in broken English. I consider myself lucky to work with them. In the words of one of my co-workers, they "would rather open a vain than ship an order incorrectly." Just information.

"From near and far to seek America,
They came by thousands to court the wild
And she just patiently smiled and bore a child
To be the spirit and guiding light"

Steppenwolf, Monster/Suicide/America.

Almost all of us can trace our lineage to a person who was running from something, or toward something. Willing to pull the lever and watch the wheels spin hoping for the jackpot. Many of them didn't speak the language. Unskilled, untrained, afraid, with the hope of a better life for their families. 

Many of us have been a byproduct of so much mingling in the great melding pot that we are not even too sure of the origin of our national heritage. We are just Americans, whose ancestors came from somewhere else. To escape, to improve, to be in the land of promise, freedom, hope. Just a bit of history.

There is no way to know what will happen over the next few months, or years. We can only look backward to see what should happen, and try to live up to the lofty ambitions of our forefathers. Or we can ignore it, and listen to the worst of our instincts, the choice is ours.  Just something to think about.