The Others

There is a 305 feet tall monument in New York Harbor that was built as a symbol to welcome all immigrants into the United States.

It is called the Statue of Liberty and was a gift from France to the U.S. in the late 1800s to honor American values and the end of slavery (Note: Ahem) after the Civil War.  

Hey gurl

The idea for this gift came from a conversation between Edouard Laboulaye, a politician, law professor and president of the French Anti-Slavery Society, and the sculptor Frederic Bartholdi. 

I’ve thought a lot about the Statue in recent weeks as the United States continues to have a centuries old debate about immigration. 

Among the questions raised in this debate are statements like:

How many do we have to take?

– What about US, or the U.S.?

– We feel bad for “those people” but right now we don’t have enough American jobs for real Americans.

And my favorite: 

Why must we dilute American culture, religion and skin color with THEM, to the point where our very own AMERICAN culture, religion and skin color, gets watered down and rendered unrecognizable?

Seriously?

There is no point getting into the details of any one of those questions, and many more, over immigration to a country whose very existence was built on a nation full of immigrants from an oppressive society traveling to a new country where everyone from anywhere would theoretically be free to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That the U.S. has not always lived up to its mission statement is not in debate.  But that this was always a fact of its intention is undeniable if you subscribe to historical facts, or any facts at all.

This week I watched the superb three-part PBS documentary The U.S. and The Holocaust by filmmakers Ken Burns, Lynn Novick and Sarah Botstein.

A must see

It’s a riveting six hours of overtly watchable, if maddening, history that sadly feels all too contemporary.

This is not only because it gives us a painstaking account of the rise and, not necessarily guaranteed at the time, fall of the Nazi Party.

Rather it is due to the fact that with the myriad of interviews with people who were there, combined with historical footage, governmental documents, and accounts from some of those serving the White House during those years, it explains the reluctance of the U.S. to open its doors fully to Jews desperate to escape (nee migrate) here, at the time. 

Too few

As the film puts it, this was principally due to:

a. A repressively strict immigration quota system and, more importantly,

b. A nationwide resistance to allowing our country to become overrun with others who would threaten the religious, economic and social balance in the U.S.

In simpler terms, this means Jews who would be needy, Jews who would take American jobs and, mostly, Jews that were branded as inferior and responsible for the economic troubles real Germans, nee Europeans, were forced to endure during the 1930s.

It wasn’t until several decades later when America had already won the war; six million Jews, not to mention many millions of others, had been killed; and the country had fully recovered from the Depression it was still reeling from in the 1930s, that US immigration quotas were lifted.

The sad truth

Yet all the while most of the top decision makers in the U.S. government knew of the grave danger and mass murders the Jews in Europe were enduring all through the 1930s. 

Also, as the filmmakers inform us, public sentiment AGAINST welcoming any more European Jewish immigrants was well over 70% during most of that time.

This included a large and very rabid Nativist, Anti-Semitic movement dominating a significant section of public and private institutions in the U.S. being spearheaded by people like much adored, wholly American aviation hero Charles Lindbergh.

Dr. Seuss on Nativism, 1941

Well, what do you do when so many in a country don’t want to open its doors for outsiders from another country and culture to come inside?

How about when those citizens, already hurting from their own economic woes, claim there is no room for THEM? 

These questions plague us to this day.  To wit:

What can you say when people whose lives are in danger, people who have no physical resemblance to the majority of US,  literally arrive here (Note: We are more connected these days and have better transportation) by the tens of thousands?

Do you tighten the borders, raise the quotas and build a theoretical and/or literal wall to keep them out?  (Note: Also known as buying them bus or plane tickets to simply get them out of your sight and away from your town).

It isn’t a game

Or do you take history into account, visit New York Harbor (note: physically or virtually) and consider who you are as a nation and how you can learn from your past mistakes?

Here is some information about our very own Lady Liberty that might shed some light on things, as she is wont to do anyway.

Mr. Laboulaye, who as mentioned had the idea for Her in the first place, was a staunch abolitionist and supporter of the Union Army during the Civil War.  In other words, he was rabidly against slavery, especially the kind that helped build the United States.

Hey Eddie!

So when that particular form of servitude was officially outlawed here  (Note: Ahem, again) he decided it could be significant to have a proper symbol of freedom greeting all newcomers on their arrival to these shores of freedom.

It would be the first visual they saw upon arrival, an encouraging beacon lighting the road to a new life in the offing.

That sculpture, Lady Liberty, actually depicts the Roman Liberty goddess, Libertas.  She holds a torch high above her head in her right hand and in her left is a tablet on which the Roman numerals for American Independence Day, July 4, 1776, is inscribed.

Fundraising efforts included visiting the torch for 50 cents as the platform was being built (1876, Philadelphia)

But the pedestal on which she stands, which would become part of the statue we know, took more than a decade plus to finance and build in the U.S. separately through donations spearheaded by a member of the media, a newspaper publisher (Note: Imagine that!) named Joseph Pulitzer. 

It accounts for half the height of what is now one of the most iconic monuments in the world and bears a plaque of the poem The New Colossus, written by 19th century poet Emma Lazarus.

Not coincidentally, Ms. Lazarus was a Sephardic Jew from an immigrant family of Portuguese descent, as well as an activist on behalf of Jewish immigrants. (Note: Imagine that, again!).

Both icons

And though her poem was not written specifically for the Statue her words have, over the years, become synonymous with its intent.

Among the most famous is this section:

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!

This is not to say that it takes someone Jewish inside the U.S. or a foreigner from outside the country (Note: In France, no less!) to show and tell us what democracy and American values are all about.

However, it has always been of interest to me that it took Czech born film director Milos Forman to make so many great films chronicling America, including the quintessential American counterculture musical, Hair; the fictional story of E.L. Doctorow’s America in Ragtime; an unlikely depiction and ultimate condemnation of American censorship in The People vs. Larry Flynt; and a celebration of oddball American creativity in the Andy Kaufman biopic, Man in the Moon.

Amen to that

It has also not escaped me that the very, very New York Jewish immigrant, Irving Berlin, wrote one of most popular anthems the U.S. conservative movement has ever wrapped its arms around, God Bless America.

All this is to say that every once in a while, and perhaps more often than that, it’s nice to be reminded who we really are, or strive to be, by some of the OTHERS who, rightly or wrongly, admired US.

And to welcome them into the fold and learn from them the lessons we were all supposed to have known in the first place.

Aretha Franklin – “God Bless America”

Going Nuclear

Imagine this:

A guy has super top secret information about the United States’ nuclear capabilities in his closet, the most top secret you can have, and refuses to give it back.

Well actually, at first he denies having it at all.

Perhaps a more accurate depiction of events

That is his response to the US government when they ask for its return, along with his surrender of other items and information that are merely dubbed secret.

So finally the government gets a court order to search his house for that and other stuff he’s not supposed to have in his closet, many boxes full, and they are all taken away from him.

See the guy hasn’t had super top secret or ever secret security clearance for almost two years and, even if he did, he could only possess or even look at said information in a governmentally secure and much more pristine facility than his…closet.

That’s how uber super duper national security TOP SECRET or SECRET all of this stuff is.

Does this make us moose and squirrel?

Oh and side note: This guy also hangs out with some of the BIGGEST power brokers in Russia and the Middle East, two countries that would do and offer quite a lot AND MORE to learn anything at all of our secrets OF ANY KIND on any level.

Now I’m not saying THAT is relevant to our guy several weeks ago hosting a bunch of those wise guys at a golf tournament he sponsored in New Jersey at another one of his closet-containing properties, where lots of games and conversations were played and had.

On the other hand, I’m NOT saying it is irrelevant; nor is more than half of the country.

This ain’t advanced calculus!

Anyway, now that we have our stuff back, stuff our guy has had for 18 months plus and, really, could have given to anyone at any time for any price or just for fun and/or frolic or bragging rights, what do we do with him, this guy, our guy????

Well, I’ll tell you what we do – we invite him to be the next president of the US and, in fact, we beg him to run. 

Yes folks, this is the belief of at least HALF of the voters in his political party, one of two major political parties in the perhaps now nuclear vulnerable, thanks to our guy, U.S.

And no, there is no hyperbole here.

Nor is this!

At NOTES FROM A CHAIR, we just report the FACTS when we reference stories about US nuclear power and the GUY, or even former guy, ultimately in control of the arsenal and strategies that enable and disable it.

Okay, here’s the truth of all of my above wordsmith-ness:

I don’t like to reference our 45th president’s name because, really, the mere click of the letters and/or the thought of them (and him) make me either physically nauseous or psychically angry. 

Or is it physically angry AND psychically nauseous?

Either way, someone get me a bag

Well, either is true in any moment where it is not a potent combination of all four.

So, aware of how his mere presence, image or existence gets to me, I instead try to analyze his newsworthy escapades, of which there are few despite the massive coverage he gets, in a separate, more potentially objective, third person scenario.

By calling him our guy (Note: Which technically he was since in 2016 he was legally elected {Note 2: As far as we now know} and this is still the UNITED States) it kind of evens the playing field a little bit more towards objectivity for people like me.

Of which there are also MANY

“Our guy”

We gain an opportunity to look at events, actions and facts without a Pavlovian instant response of near vomitus sickness or explosive, stroke-provoking rage.

In other words, it begs the question of who he is and allows us to focus on what that nameless individual whose name we dare not speak or see, has done. 

Or not done.

What do you do with an individual, a mere citizen (which he is now) who has indulged the actions, or inactions, he has? 

This seems right

How should THE LAW treat such a person, and what do we, his fellow individual citizens, think about the WAYS in which such a person behaves?

Here is a NY Times opinion piece this weekend that uses the real names:

I suggest you answer the questions raised in my scenarios first before you attempt to read it, then decide what you think.

But maybe not before reading this, which talks more about the possible wide berth of risks for nuclear secrets of any kind leaking, with one of our foremost experts.

I educated myself with those and many other sets of articles. 

Think Chip and Joanna Gaines can fix up my bomb shelter? #nuclearshiplap

Yet in the final analysis they caused me to conclude that, well, the best summary, and certainly the most succinct and entertaining, of all of the above comes from Randy Rainbow.

Yes, that’s his real name.

It fully encapsulates everything super informed me has to say on the subject so please have a listen in your safe space.

Mine’s an imaginary (Note: Or is it?) bomb shelter.

Randy Rainbow – “Lock Him Up, YESTERDAY”