This past weekend my wife and I took the kids to see the statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Being as my family just as far back as my grandparents came through Ellis Island (legally), I found it interesting to visit my roots and share with my own kids a little of our history. The very first site of America they saw like many others coming here was the Statue of Liberty.
As I read through pages of history about Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty I found several bits of information that jumped out at me.
The main one was about the statue itself. When the concept was first put forth the idea of a tribute to "Liberty" was considered very controversial. Liberty was looked at at meaning revolution or revolt, not of freedom. This doesn't seem too far off from today when groups like the free staters are looked at as extremists because they support the idea of liberty and freedom.
Over time, the original view immigrants had of the Statue of Liberty has been twisted as well. The statue was no longer looked at as a beckon for Liberty but as a beckon for immigration. People came here escaping overbearing governments seeking chances and opportunities to succeed. They came here for liberty and freedom. However somewhere over time that message has been changed. In stead of coming here seeking opportunity they now come here looking to be cared for. Instead of a beckon of freedom, it was twisted to be viewed as a beckon for immigration and used as justification to open our borders wide to not just the poor and tired but the lazy and freeloader as well.
In part I blame the poem, "The New Colossus". When people today think of the Statue of Liberty they can recite one part of the poem... "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses". They look at that as a beckon that we would care for them but it is the very next line that disproves that "yearning to breath free". It wasn't about caring for them as much as it was opening the door to opportunities that tyrannical leaders had taken from them elsewhere.
As I headed back to mainland on the ferry, the visit to Ellis Island and Liberty Island left me full of thought and renewed my views of what this country should strive for. I would strongly encourage anyone who has never been to take a trip out and visit the statue and read her history.
In closing I'd like to leave you with two more things.
|1.||freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control.|
|2.||freedom from external or foreign rule; independence.|
|3.||freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice.|
|4.||freedom from captivity, confinement, or physical restraint: The prisoner soon regained his liberty.|
|5.||permission granted to a sailor, esp. in the navy, to go ashore.|
|6.||freedom or right to frequent or use a place: The visitors were given the liberty of the city.|
|7.||unwarranted or impertinent freedom in action or speech, or a form or instance of it: to take liberties.|
|8.||a female figure personifying freedom from despotism.|
Secondly, I'd like to share with you the full poem "The New Colossus":
The New Colossus
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!"
—Emma Lazarus, 1883