Sunday, January 29, 2017

Walls, Fear, and Monuments

On October 26, 1886, the Statue of Liberty was completed and opened to the public. It was a gift from the French government, and our greatest monument ever, rivaling the ancient Colossus of Rhodes. It was a beacon to all those who came to America. It was the first thing ships saw coming over the horizon, and it signaled to immigrants and refugees that they had arrived in the land of the free where they could begin their lives again, free from oppression and persecution. On the massive colossus these words are etched:

"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!"

Text on the Statue of Liberty

This was a nation vastly removed from today's politics, where terms like "melting pot" originated to give character to this young, prosperous, and mostly empty land. "E Pluribus Unum," or "Out of Many, One" was and still is our national motto. We are a nation of immigrants, that today, is trying to pretend it isn't.

During the early 20th century a large portion of Europe fled to America, and not one of the millions of refugees had papers, or anything else for that matter, as they stepped off the boats into a new world. All of the immigrants, your grandfathers and great grandfathers, arriving at Ellis Island were undocumented. They gave their name, age, were quarantined briefly, and that was it. The only difference between then and now is that those Europeans where white and Mexicans are not. Our immigration policy today has proven to be racist at its core because we don't seem to care about Canadians or illegal European immigrants. We're just afraid of the brown ones. Decades and decades of conservative fear mongering has us afraid of what built this country, immigrants.

Ellis Island, 1880s

With the political climate of the last 50 years, or so, maybe it's time we tore down the Statue of Liberty because too many Americans don't believe in what it says anymore. We could use the steel to build our new border wall with Mexico. Unfortunately for Trump, and anyone else putting their faith in walls, historically they have never worked.

The Great Wall of China didn't stop the Mongols from crossing into China, though many died trying. Hadrian's Wall didn't stop the Picts (Scots) from crossing into Roman territory, though many died trying. The Berlin Wall didn't stop the East Germans from crossing into the West, though many died trying. Perhaps, Trump's Wall will succeed though, despite hundreds of drug smuggling tunnels that already exist under the border. And therein lies the problem, the border itself.

Migrant worker ca. 1950s

Back in the 50s, we had an open border with Mexico. Every year Mexican migrant workers would cross the border, work to plant and harvest our fields, and then take their meager earnings back to their families in Mexico where it would buy A LOT more than it could here. They came, and they went. Illegal immigration wasn't a problem because Mexicans only came here to work. They didn't want to be American, they were Mexican. That is, until we closed the border. Mexican workers who were already here feared that if they went home, they would never be allowed back, so they stayed and sent money home via whatever means was possible. Eventually, the men wanted to be with their families; and if they could, they had them smuggled across the now "sealed" border.

This was the beginning of our illegal immigration problem, and the billions of dollars we'd spend every year trying to enforce a vast imaginary line in the desert. Now, that we're going to drop billions more on this monument to American fear, we don't deserve the Statue of Liberty anymore. It belongs to a previous, greater nation. Perhaps, we should make it a museum?


  1. So where was the first photo in this post taken? Whose wall is it?

    1. Just so you know. It is an already existing border fence on the Texas-Mexico border.

    2. Actually it's in Israel... You can google image search it.
      Snopes has it as well...

    3. Thanks for the correction. The author made that clear also.

  2. And don't anyone dare forget - the Statue of Liberty was originally created of a MUSLIM WOMAN!

  3. And for the sake of accuracy Lazarus' "Give me your tired your poor" poem is on a tablet mounted INSIDE the base of the statue of Liberty