The other day we saw someone doing something particularly nasty The person with me commented: “that’s not Christian-like.” Being in an ornery mood I said: “What does Christian-like mean. Does it mean all those who are Christian do good things and others don’t?” It was a rhetorical question and as expected the answer I got was a dirty look.
I thought back to G.K. Chesterton. He said: “The problem with Christianity is it never has been tried.” I suppose had it been then the expression “Christian-like” might have some substance to it rather than being bereft of all meaning if taken literally.
What brought me to my blog today was the news of the New York City Christian Donald Trump’s new immigration plan He said it will have “compassion for struggling American families that deserve an immigrant system that puts their needs first.” The plan cuts immigration in half; ends migration based upon having family members here; and will favor those with skills, have money to support themselves and speak English.
One newspaper wrote about how it differed from our present plan. “The current U.S. immigration system favors uniting family members with relatives already in the country. It was built on the premise that any person, regardless of how much education or money they have, can come to the United States and create a productive life for themselves.”
I first thought of myself and my family of hard-working peasant Irish ancestors who came here with no skill or money. They might never have come. Nor would my wife’s family whose arrival in Boston was announced in headlines in the local Boston newspaper: “DP Ship Arrives.” They came with the same ability and assets as my ancestors but did not even speak English.
Simultaneously I thought of the New York City Jew, Emma Lazarus. Her family had emigrated from Portugal and Germany. She was well-to-do and highly educated. She was related to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Benjamin N. Cardozo. Part of her family had been in America since before the Revolution. She, like her great-great grandmother who was born in New York in 1752, was a poet. She would die before age 40.
Around 1880 because of pogroms against Jews in Russia many of them were fleeing there and some came to America. All were quite destitute. Emma Lazarus found herself working among these refugees giving them as much help as she could and writing articles urging others to do the same. Around this time large groups of Italians and other Eastern Europeans were also arriving. It is fair to say that under Trump’s new plan all of them would never have set foot on our soil.
Emma came to mind because she wrote the poem “The New Colossus”. The old Colossus was the Colossus of Rhodes which celebrated a military victory. The new Colossus was the name Emma gave to the Statue of Liberty. This was meant to celebrate the idea that America was to be a welcoming land. Lady Liberty has been looked for by the poor immigrants coming on ship after ship to America as a sign of America’s welcome to them.
We all know Emma’s words: “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!”
Do we say in the context of immigration that Emma was very Christian-like? Or do we say we would like Trump to follow Emma’s lead and become more Jew-like.
Beyond that a greater question lurks. What do we do with Lady Liberty. We know Emma’s poem has to go. Will the lady be replaced by a statue of Trump or Rupert Murdoch? Who do we get to write the next poem? Rudy Guiliani? Anthony Scaramoochi? Ivanka Trump?
I’m sure one of the lines will be “Give me your skillful rich with compassion for struggling American families” One thing though I still can’t figure is if we bring in these people how does that put the need of struggling American families first. Won’t they be taking American jobs from skillful Americans?