May 5, 2010

Lady 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-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

-----Emma Lazarus

At the risk of insulting the intelligence of anyone who already understands the allusions made by this poem, I will share a few thoughts about it. This is an inscription on display inside the Statue of Liberty. It first makes reference to the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the ancient wonders. The Colossus was built to celebrate military victory--in stark contrast to the Statue of Liberty, a symbol of peace. Thus, America was to be a land which didn't stretch its limbs to conquer other lands. The poem depicts a land which stands as a beacon and example to other nations. Of course this is a far cry from what modern foreign policy tells us about "making the world safe for democracy" through military conquest.

America does not care for the "pomp" of the old world. It does not care for the nationalism, the pride, and the arrogance that characterized the nations of that time. America does not seek the fame and glory of empires nor the grandeur of ancient kingdoms. It cares only to "breathe free". How different is this from statements of "no apology" or "the power of pride", or even the declaration "I'm proud to be an American!"?

What does America stand for? America stands ready to accept all who come to be free. All who are oppressed and worn down by tyranny are accepted here. They can be of any color, race, or creed. They can come from any nation and speak any language. They come here to experience liberty and to afford the same to their fellow man.

Is this the America we live in today? What are our responsibilities if we would reclaim it?

1 comment:

Taylor & Stephanie Cane said...

Well put, very important that Americans understand this.

Reading this post I really felt again the truthfulness of non-interventionism and how we should be an example and not an enforcer of freedom and democracy. A beacon is the right word really.