Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Poetry Corner: Emma Lazarus

When I started this blog, I didn’t really intend for it to get political. But now I look at my new crop of students, and I also remember students past, who came here from other countries, looking for a new beginning. Many of them were fleeing from wars or famine or political oppression. I have had refugees from Bosnia and Cambodia. There are the Cubans, who love their country but despair of ever being able to return. There are also those who come here to find economic opportunity, whether from southeast Asia or Latin America. Some arrivals have come from privileged backgrounds, such a the rocket scientist from Kazakhstan who married an American college professor. Many others have come from situations in which they could barely survive, devastating poverty.

This country really needs to change the way it screens the people who come here, and the policies about who is or isn’t allowed in. We certainly don’t want to let in terrorists or criminals. But at the same time, we need to find a fair and equitable way to let in people who contribute to this country’s well-being by working hard and earning their place in society.

Evidence that the current system doesn’t work: All of the 9-11 terrorists entered this country legally. Their only illegal act, prior to the terrorist attack, was that some of them overstayed their visas. On the other hand, the government deported a large number of illegal immigrants working in a chicken-processing plant in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, in many cases leaving their children stranded in day-care with nobody to care for them.

What’s the bigger threat – illegal immigrants chopping up chickens in a factory, or mostly-legal visitors taking sufficient pilot training to crash airliners into important buildings?

OK, enough diatribe, let’s get to the poetry. The final sestet of this poem is well-known. The first part of the sonnet is not so familiar.

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!"

This is what I think about when I see all of those students who have come here, often at great risk, from someplace else.


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