The list of despicable things said by President Donald Trump and minions in his administration grows daily.
But every now and then, one of them says something that sounds alarms in the skulls of knowledgeable and informed people.
Mine was among the skulls ringing last week when I heard that Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said Emma Lazarus’ poem on the Statue of Liberty should be edited to say, “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.”
In February of 2017, I wrote a column about the then recently passed racist Trump Muslim ban and said this, “Now that this racist, xenophobic, nativist Muslim ban is the law of the land for the moment and we have turned our collective backs on a group of people when they need us the most, and are no longer the nation that is referenced in our Founding documents, the only thing left to do is to take some of those funds we are going to save as a result of this ban on Muslims from certain countries and make the following changes to Emma Lazarus’ poem on the Statue of Liberty:
Instead of it saying, “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-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
It should be changed to this, “Give me your tired, your poor huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, only if they are these, the non-black or -brown European-looking Christians who want to make America great again. Muslims or other non-American types need not apply. There ain’t nothing golden or any other color door for you here.”
I was being cute and satirical. Cuccinelli was reciting the Steven Miller-inspired Trump Manifesto of Making America White Again.
When he was called out by people, in true Trumpian fashion, instead of backing away from his racist, bigoted statement, Cuccinelli, in another interview, doubled by adding these words, “Well, of course, that poem was referring back to people coming from Europe where they had class-based societies where people were considered wretched if they weren’t in the right class.
Some on the right often accuse us liberals of trying to rewrite history to fit our changing views when we add the perspectives and contributions of the underrepresented groups of people who helped build this country.
But they never seem to have a problem when conservatives reinterpret history in ways that reflect their narrow-minded views of who did what and how in this nation while ignoring or downplaying the contributions of non-whites.
The Cucc was wrong on many levels about the meaning of the words of and in Lazarus’ “The New Colossus,” according to historians like Rachel B. Gross, Annie Polland and Esther Schor, who have researched and written about Lazarus and the poem,
“The New Colossus’ was a political statement written against white supremacist political efforts in her day, and it remains a rebuke to the same in our day,” Gross said.
“Reading it as a representation of mainstream American views has always been reading it incorrectly.”
Polland said that the Cuccinelli is wrong to assert that the poem was only referring to people coming from Europe.
“In the beginning of the poem, she refers to the statue, and she refers to America as a mother of exiles. She didn’t say a mother of European exiles. She didn’t say a mother of Catholic exiles. She said a mother of exiles.
And what she’s striving for is an expansive and inclusive idea of immigrants and the way in which America itself would define itself by providing that safety and that opportunity for immigrants.”
In the 1880s, Lazarus, a muckraking writer from a wealthy Jewish family five generations removed from being an immigrant herself, begins helping Eastern European Jews and others immigrate to the United States.
Once they arrived, she advocates for them, helping them find homes and jobs, teaching many of them English.
Because of her activism, a friend asks her to write a poem that will raise money for the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.
At first, she says no, then her friend tells her to think of the people she has been helping and how that when they come into the harbor, they will see the statue that has her words written on its base.
According to Schor, this is far from the first time the poem has been attacked from the right.
In one of his books, infamous white supremacist David Duke devotes a whole chapter to Lazarus. Stormfront, an alt-right website, referred to her the Jewess who tried to ruin the United States.
From the Bottom where I see things, in some quarters, Cuccinelli is speaking to a racist choir when he makes statements as he did.
FOOTBALL SEASON HAS ARRIVED
Hey, football season is here! Go, Big Red!
A prior commitment not too far from where the Patriot season opener takes place in Haywood County will keep me from being there in person, but I’ll definitely be there in spirit and on the Internet listening to the broadcast.
It’s been awhile, but I’m also looking forward to Murray State’s upcoming season.
According to what Coach Mitch Stewart told me this summer, two former Patriot standouts — sophomore running back Lukas Reynolds and freshman Ethan Thompson — will get some early playing time.
In a nod to the program and coaches at Henry County, Stewart said that Reynolds and Thompson are two of the most coachable young kids he’s had in the Racer stable.
While I haven’t totally stopped watching professional football, because of players kneeling during the national anthem, like many on the political left and right have, I no longer consider myself a fanatic.
If I have something that needs to be done when an interesting game is on, I don’t even bother to record and watch it later, anymore.
With that being said, I’m taking a wait-and-see approach when commenting on Jay Z’s partnership with the NFL, after being one of the most outspoken critics of the league’s treatment of Colin Kaepernick and the kneeling players.
Last year, he turned down the chance to be the halftime headliner at the Super Bowl, chastised other black performers who participated in it and mentioned his stance in a rap song.
Despite the urge to cry hypocrite, I’m a big believer in changing exclusionary organizations from the inside, instead of burning them down from the outside, so I’m willing to give the brother the benefit of my doubts — for a while.
CLASS REUNION DETAILS
Hey, Henry County Class of 79, the time for our 40th reunion is fast approaching. The festivities and fellowshipping will begin at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, with a get-together at Perrylogic, then on to the Patriot football game for the sports fans.
On Sept. 14, things get started with coffee at 10 a.m. at Jack’s Java on the court square, followed by an old-fashioned ice cream social at Jordan’s on Volunteer Drive.
The class dinner will start at 6 p.m. at the Paris Convention Center. The cost is $35 a person. Payments for the shingdig are due by Sept. 1.
Hope to see you there.
Hi Momma Lois.
TONY KENDALL of Hazel is a writer, teacher, actor, playwright and sports fanatic. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.