I’m usually sleepy when the 7:00 a.m. alarm goes off and the news starts floating over me, gently at first. Then it seeps into my consciousness with varying degrees of disbelief, anger and, occasionally, relief. Today that transition ended abruptly with a hard blink and a whole-body toss.
While I was listening to NPR, I heard an interview with acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli. He discussed the news that President Trump plans to limit legal immigration by denying green cards and visas to those who are likely to request public assistance (translation: people who are poor and uneducated).
Cuccinelli was asked about the words in Emma Lazarus's poem “The New Colossus,” which is featured prominently at the base of the Statue of Liberty. This iconic poem has come to define the American promise to immigrants for generations: “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore….”
When Cuccinelli was asked if the words of that poem still remain part of the American ethos, he said that they did. He just offered some tiny changes to the opening lines: "Give me your tired and your poor — who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge."
So now Trump administration officials fancy themselves poets in addition to all of their other skills. All I can offer is my riff on this seminal poem, originally written in the hours after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. It feels as relevant as ever.
Do you have a take on the Lazarus poem? Share it in the comments section.
The new American colossus
By Tina Rapp
Giants of capitalism rise, chanting "me-me-me, my-my-my."
women, Muslims, Latinos, the disabled.
The racism, the misogyny, all that hate? Just comes
with the electoral package when you need a job.
With trembling lips, remember:
"Never stop believing that fighting for what's right is worth it."
Think of the desperate, the tired, the poor. The angry white men yearning to be free.
Let the demagogue lead, try to redraw the borders of our teeming shores.
Our diverse masses will be free.
Here, a mighty woman still stands at the welcoming gate.