The New Colossus

Image result for statue of liberty

In 1883 Emma Lazarus wrote a beautiful sonnet entitled “The New Colossus”.  It was a work of art forming part of a fundraising drive to construct the pedestal on which to mount the Statue of Liberty.  When the pedestal was constructed in 1903 the poem was cast onto a plaque where it can be read to this day.

That was back in the days before the Immigration Act of 1924 when America welcomed immigrants with open arms, those same immigrants who made America what it is today.

That was back in the days before the children of those immigrants decided to close the doors and build walls and repel immigrants with openly carried arms.

Under the presidency of Donald J. Trump we see babies ripped from the arms of their mothers and left to die in concentration camps. Call them what you like, they are camp in which people are concentrated for processing.

 

The New New Colossus; by Donal Clancy and Emma Lazarus

Just like that 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 she named
Mother of Homeland Security. From her beacon-hand
glows world-wide warning; her stern eyes command
the air-bridged harbor that twin towers once framed.

“Keep, ancient lands, your sorry peoples!” cries she
with silent lips. “Give me not your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
the wretched refuse of your murdering rout.
Keep these, the homeless, tempest-tost from me,
I lift my lamp beside the sign “Keep Out!”

Happy birthday Vikram Seth

Vikram_Seth,_in_Oxfordshire

On a day when US policy comes to the fore for stripping refugee children from their parents this poem seems appropriate.  Any country that makes a business of incarceration is on a wrong path.  Nobody should ever profit from locking someone away.

In the past, in Ireland, we paid the Church to lock away our fallen women, to take their children and to sell them into adoption.  The Church made sure we shamed generations of pregnant girls into a life of slavery.  We paid the Church to lock away our insane, and they found more insane here than in any other country.  We paid the Church to lock up rowdy boys who got in a bit of trouble with the law.  Those boys were abused both physically and sexually.

Locking people away should be a costly and painful exercise.  It should not be easy.  It should never be a norm.  Prisons create crime as much as crime fills prisons.

 

All you who sleep tonight: by Vikram Seth

All you who sleep tonight
Far from the ones you love,
No hand to left or right
And emptiness above –

Know that you aren’t alone
The whole world shares your tears,
Some for two nights or one,
And some for all their years.