Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Good morning, Wretched Refuse!

I woke up this morning with that poem about the Statue of Liberty going through my brain. For some unknown reason, I have memorized the first stanza...probably because it was a song or I did it for the heck of it. But it goes something like this:

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free,
The wretched refuse of the teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless tempest toss'd to me!
I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door.

This is what Emma Lazarus thought of the onslaught of refugees and immigrants who showed up in America. I don't know much about her, but as I thought about her words, I kind of got angry.

I have absolutely no Native American ancestors. All my people came to America from some other teeming shore. They were tired and poor and I assume since they came here in steerage, they did some huddling.
But I draw the line at them being considered wretched refuse.

They were uneducated, but hard-working folks who learned English and lived the American Dream. They didn't accept any sort of hand-outs; they paid for what they had. They did not keep one foot in the old country while reaping the benefits of this new land. They weren't wretched nor were they garbage.

Ms. Lazarus, Gosh, I hope you weren't sitting in some posh apartment in NYC penning this! I hope you didn't scold your maid if she was a tick late getting you your toast and eggs.

But I am being unfair. I gotta look her up. She may have been a welfare worker or a church lady who helped immigrants assimilate into the US. BRB

Okay, I looked her up. She was born in NYC as I guessed, of Sephardic Jewish parents, so that may have qualified her as in the know. She did work with immigrants, wrote poems about them, championed various causes to uplift the poor and died of cancer.
I apologize, Ms. Lazarus, for thinking you hated my grandparents.

But I still don't care for the wretched refuse bit.
Oh, unless you're writing about the earlier immigrants called the colonists.
Now, considering the religious refugees and the prisoners shipped over here to the new world to chop down trees to make their own homes, to learn from and fight off Native Americans upon whose sacred land they encroached...hey, let's not forget these folks!
Remember when Castro unloaded the mental defectives and prisoners on US?
Various kings and governments from Europe did that long before Fidel.

Most of the ordinary people who came from England, say, had their crimes branded onto their hands.  Now those might be considered wretched and possibly dangerous.
Or were they?

I'm glad my ancestors, those teeming masses, got here. It must have been a hard trip and what was waiting for them was no picnic. No streets lined with gold. No free land, but a land of the free.
That's what my ancestors, my assorted relatives wanted!

Thank you for coming here, for facing all those trials and tribulations!
Thank you, homeless tempest toss'd!

You did the right thing.
But I'm glad none of you could read the English words at the base of Liberty Enlightening the World.
Best not go there.

Thanks for everything.

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