Passing the Torch

Where did your ancestors come from? How did  you come to live here? My view of the world is not necessarily the same as that of others. I am willing to listen to others. I understand that life is not simple for any of us.

My ancestors came to this country from Europe, primarily from the British Isles. They came to escape a world of poverty and famine. My mother’s family, Scotch-Irish settlers fleeing the potato famine, settled first in Kentucky before some of them moved to Iowa to homestead. My father’s mother came from Ayrshire and his father came from Wales as a teenager to escape working in the coal mines.

I grew up knowing the poem by Emma Lazarus engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.

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!”

The influx of my ancestors into this country was not gentle. Native Americans were both slaughtered and displaced by it. We could have done better. We were all humans who desired a better life.

And so it continues. We could do better. The words on the Statue of Liberty no longer are echoed throughout the land. Instead we seek to build walls to keep out others who seek a better life.

It is a challenge to be both human and humane as hundreds of thousands seek a better life for themselves and their children in all parts of the world. How can we do this? Maybe we could start by using our rhetoric and wealth to address the problem without using it to building walls and reviling humans who seek the life that we have been lucky enough to have found.

Do we really want to extinguish the torch that led us here? Is it possible to rekindle it?

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