Did you know the Statue of Liberty has a name? She is called “The Mother of Exiles” by Emma Lazarus in her poem, “The New Colossus”. For over one hundred years, she stood in New York harbor welcoming immigrants and refugees. Many Americans (myself included) are direct decedents of the “wretched refuse” guided to the “golden door” by her lamp. The torch represents hope, freedom, and opportunity for all.
This week, the symbolism of the Statue of Liberty got more complicated. As we mourned the terrorist attacks in Paris, we thought about how she was a gift to the USA from the French people. We remembered her French origins as the work of Gustave Eiffel and Frédéric Bartholdi. We felt anger and resentment that terrorists would infiltrate a migration of refugees “yearning to breathe free” to exploit the hospitality of a compassionate nation. We witnessed their acts of terror and we were afraid. Some of us are so afraid, we want to betray the American Dream that the Mother of Exiles stands for: the dream of a better life and a future regardless of race, creed or color. Others believe that the terrorists win if we embrace our worst fears and betray our best ideals. Are you torn? Do you feel your courage tested? Look to The New Colossus. Listen to the words of Emma Lazarus and be bold. Be bold enough to love.
(The New York home of Emma Lazarus)
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-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Read ~ Write ~ Wander