There is a special consideration one must make when considering America, the freedom this nation provides, what it symbolizes, and the dream it engenders in people all over the world.
Critical consideration must be given to the premise of the American dream, viewed from all prevailing perspectives, those who live here and can trace their ancestry to its founding, and those who arrive fresh on its shores, or across the border, eyes wide with wonder.
We must consider critically these souls full of steely courage, not to take from others, not to force themselves and their beliefs on others, but rather to be a part of the dream, to add their uniqueness to the greater whole, and experience but a small fraction of what Americans take for granted … the opportunity to be free, and through blood, sweat, tears, and painful soul searing joy, struggle and strive down the charged corridor of American liberty.
The creation of today’s America, where a black man born of an American mother and Kenyan father, most certainly an American by right of birth, can rise to the office or President, is something we must embrace and share. It proves the power of the American dream, that here more than anywhere else, a person can realize the best of themselves, and contribute to something greater, for themselves, and their posterity.
This is not something we should seek to deny others. Unfortunately, with every generation this is exactly what Americans have done. We must not shy away from this truth, for racism festers at the root of this great nation’s founding. As we evolve and time changes us the rot is steadily working its way out of the root, but the vines are old and long, and very persistent.
In truth, it is this rot, this fear that allows far too many of us to claim with a straight face that we don’t have enough room, that we don’t have enough resources, that we simply can’t afford them, that they are all criminals, that they will destroy our society, rape our women, kidnap and abuse our children, terrorize our families and destroy all that we hold dear. This is a lie, a lie born of fear, and the peculiar rot at our root.
The incredible experiment in governance that is the United States of America is quite unlike anything ever created in humankind’s long history. It goes beyond what the framers envisioned, recognizing in fact what they could only begin to glimpse in dream. The ideal of America is what we must continuously aspire to, and in so doing we must recognize the truth of our nation, its words enshrined in bronze at the base of the Statue of Liberty.
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 powerful poem The New Colossus by poet Emma Lazarus answers unequivocally the question of immigration in words of fire burned by fingers of lighting. Don’t doubt, go back and read it again.
In every generation we have denied these words, to our dismay. In every generation in blood have we burned through the crucible to realize the truth of Emma’s words, and the power acknowledging it provides us. Through our immigrants are we made strong.
Italian-Americans give us strength. Scottish-Americans give us strength. Irish-Americans give us strength. Polish-Americans give us strength. Japanese-Americans give us strength. Chinese-Americans give us strength. Indian-Americans give us strength. Nigerian-Americans give us strength. Greek-Americans give us strength. Ethiopian-Americans give us strength. Russian-Americans give us strength. Jewish-Americans give us strength. Native-Americans still give us great strength, through the spirit of the ancient great nations that burn bright in the forever silence. Black-Americans, African-Americans, Descendants of the Emancipated give us great strength, as the chosen in suffering through perseverance and generational punishment they rise. Mexican-Americans, many descended from a time before there was an America give us great strength.
This is who we are.
Today, as in days past, there are those who come to our shores seeking the dream, seeking the same as those mentioned above, to put America to their name, their cultural identity, their ethnicity, even their faith. They seek to be American, and heed only the call of the golden door. They have seen in their eyes, their parent’s eyes, and their grandparent’s eyes the bright flame from Liberty’s torch, and they seek us, to be one of us. They are the storm-tossed, the tragic, the unwanted, the wretched refuse.
They seek us and promise to work for us, to bleed for us, to build for us, to fight for us. They come to us with a promise seared onto their souls, a promise so powerful and binding that many willingly take an oath to us, to charge for us, to stand for us, to fight for us, to burn in battle for us, to defend us … to die for us. They are willing to die for us, for America, and meet their end without the benefit of being American. Such commitment must move a soul mightily.
If one would consider critically what the immigrant brings one would see readily that we cannot repeat the errors of past generations, that we cannot allow this debate to fall into blood, or some heedless attempt to shut the golden door, and ship people away wholesale on buses and boats.
Immigrants expand the economy. Immigrants provide labor. They even expand the tax base, if we legitimize them. Immigrants provide differentiation in brain as well as blood, and makes the whole that much heartier. Their culture becomes American culture. Their thoughts become American thoughts. And of this melding of heart and mind comes innovation. Make no mistake, America’s ethnic diversity is our mother of necessity, creating change and innovation that has benefited all Americans. This has powered the dream.
There must be a constant renewal of the American dream as we embrace the diversity of our powerfully varying cultural dynamism. We are inherently bound by our ethnic differences that coalesce around our deep rooted similarities, especially those that we deny. This is the heart of the critical question in the debate for immigration reform. It is the imperative we must address. We must acknowledge the truth through the clear lens of critical thinking.
And what is that truth? It is that as Americans, both legal and aspiring, we all cherish freedom and liberty. We cherish individual accomplishment provided by way of an open door to opportunity. We cherish the chance to contribute to something greater than ourselves, to work in our various forms and various teams to form the American dream, our combined message to the world that shows here in America your dream can live.
Now, in 2013 we must again decide. Will we heed the imperative? We will stand tall under the lamp of Lady liberty and proclaim that at long last we have evolved to the rationality of widening the golden door responsibly, with true love and compassion for humanity, accepting the boundless innovation and creativity that flows from that teeming wretched refuse? Will we? For it is from this refuse that great women and men, a great nation is formed.