Monday, July 5, 2010

More Than an Icon

There is a statue in the harbor in New York, standing on Liberty Island, which is known worldwide as a sign of freedom and welcome. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” From Emma Lazarus’ pen, the words of The New Colossus do capture part of the spirit of this great country.
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 founding fathers came together, men with purpose and hope. Some were not intending to split with Britain, but to restore more of a balanced representation. Some came even as the poem indicates, long before the Statue of Liberty, the great colossus to which is referred, was created. Merchants, farmers, seekers of liberty, religious freedom, freedom from the kings’ wars, the of an entrepreneur, the gambler, the one who wanted a new start, they all gathered in and founded small villages. They grew to towns and then colonies of small towns. Each colony area contained its own distinct flavor, culture, money, and laws. They were like many tiny little internally bound, externally separated countries, residing near each other. It was this mix that became a loud, argumentative, hopeful, hard working, big dreaming amalgamation of our earliest central government.
I still wonder that it occurred, that somehow out of sheer determination and grit and stubborn courage, these men and women led a nation to be birthed. Through the war that followed and the mix of cannon balls, dirt, black powder, blood, and ink, our nation was developed. The legacy of this particular generation was not just a battlefield memorial though; it was that a woman poet in New York, with Jewish community ties, could write such a poem of her homeland. It was that we celebrate with fireworks and barbeques. It is that we vote for our leaders, and be they good or bad; we do not remove them from power via a coupé or put new ones with an assassination and forced military empowerment. The legacy exists when an American flag is on bags of rice and flour delivered throughout the world to feed the poor. The legacy is a lofty one, built of the finest materials and washed in the blood and dirt of struggle, the flour and butter on the early homesteads, and our steel and circuit boards today. We honor the legacy – Happy Birthday America.