Yearning to breathe free in the age of fear

  • The Statue of Liberty stands in New York harbor. AP PHOTO

Published: 9/10/2019 9:03:32 AM

The effrontery to the Statue of Liberty unconsciously proposed by Ken Cucinelli, Trump’s acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, leaves us dazed and dumbfounded. Yet it is only just the latest manifestation of government self-degradation. He suggests no more “Give me your tired, your poor…” It’s the old trick. We don’t need you if you’re going to cost us money. He tried to smooth it over but the drool of insincerity smeared his disguised attempt at peddling a symbol to the masses that we’re a classist society and we’re only interested in the most promising, and of course Europeans.

Ken Cucinelli’s profound misunderstanding of the words themselves lets him twist his history into an exclusionary tale going forward. No more huddled masses, only those “standing on their own two feet.” Accosted on his revisionism he quickly parried to confirm he wasn’t suggesting actually defacing the original. But that represents the callous positions and ideas constantly bombarding us from the Trump administration. The ideological swamp with no geometric boundaries just expands wherever it wants.

Emma Lazarus is turning in her grave as are all the refugees from the past who made the journey under perilous conditions to escape famine, endless upheaval, and persecution. As the New York Times featured recently, no fate could have been less certain than those of the “20 and odd” first slaves brought over in 1619, plopped on the Virginia shore by a Dutch ship. It was downhill from there. The value of human life went on trial, but first it went on the market. Minimal cost labor, what is more appealing? What can you do with people who aren’t civilized? Devaluing the human spirit in any way betrays the reasons for our very existence. Stop and think about the Native Americans. The Times section predicates the founding of America as we have come to experience it, as essentially formed and twisted by the institution of Slavery. Revisionism here serves a real purpose. The elephant in the room begs for water.

Trump has stirred up the muck, deliberately so in many instances, to inflame hatred and reinforce that very violence at the expense of African Americans and people of color. Why am I saying this? I’m white, right? What’s my problem? Well I guess I should feel emboldened to feel OK since white privilege lets me stand on any stump I want. I have a voice while many do not. “So what do you have to say?” A man asked, a slight edge in his voice. “What can you tell me that I don’t already know, haven’t already seen? Are you gonna solve the fact I’m four times more likely than you to get arrested for doing nothing? Nothing!”

Immigrants have always started their journey on rough seas. They’ve provided nothing but inspiration to all that follow. They lay down spirit on the land, they form the stones we build with, the roof that shelters and allows us to prosper. They are indispensable. They must be freed. Freedom for some alone is not freedom at all. Equality is in demand throughout the world. People are emerging and encompass a nearly impossible body to imagine, so varied, dense, colorful, expressive, solemn, a novel being written, a song, an equation. And we’re hamstrung by complete incompetents who foul up the very act of getting out of bed.

Which brings us down to the architect of white supremacy in the White House, Stephen Miller, general factotum immigration control freak and ardent racist. What a guy to be influencing the president who finds him perfect for his usefulness in deflecting his own racist policies. It’s the sliding screen trick where different figures appear each time the cover shuffles the image behind it. Bait and switch is too elemental a ruse to bother with. Miller it seems has never been able to have an actual give and take conversation, busy as he is with over-talking whatever anyone is saying. His visage often behind the President is stern and unexpressive, his direct exchanges on the media limited and autocratic, his S.S. demeanor meant to disarm. But the cruel kids’ separation policy was his doing and he has done everything in his power to redesign executive power to suit his own malignant obsessions.

Lady Liberty weeps as this whole charade plays itself out. She sees fewer and fewer ships in the distance. They are huddled somewhere, the southern border, off the Atlantic, stuck in limbo somewhere because humanity cannot reckon with the self-inflicted disaster being created, that is well in the making. There’s too much to say and not enough space to say it. Lady Liberty needs rescuing and it will take every human being possible, consciously uniting on one narrative of peace and brotherhood to once again save us from ourselves.

A playwright, Alan Harris has been a well-known chef for 40 years in Franklin County. He lives in Shelburne Falls.

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