Monday, April 17, 2017

"The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus

Given the issues concerning immigration, emigration, human rights, and "otherness" that have come to the forefront in American news lately, this poem has been coming back to my mind a lot. It's one I think all Americans should learn and consider, even if they disagree with the implications. The Statute of Liberty, initially conceived to honor freedom and democracy following the Union victory of the Civil War, has this poem engraved on a bronze plaque within the lower level of the pedestal. The poem, the source of the famous line "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses...", was written by a young woman who was an advocate for refugees, specifically Russian Jews seeking refuge in America. The issue of acceptance of modern-day refugees and immigrants is complex and many of us find ourselves falling somewhere in the middle of a large spectrum of opinions, the extremes of which may be indifference on one side and utter hatred on the other. Wherever you find yourself in the large mix of ideas about refugees and immigrants, consider what a monument like the Statue of Liberty and ideals like those upon which the United States of America was built can mean to people fleeing from tyranny and from suffering. Is there still a Golden Door to this nation, or is that solely a dream of past generations? As you consider such ideas, remember this poem, The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus:

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!” 

The New Colossus
by Emma Lazarus

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