Thursday, November 19, 2015

Not With Conquering Limbs Astride From Land to Land: I Accuse Paul Ryan of Unamerican Activities

     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 be free,
     The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
     Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
     I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

     Written in aid of the Bartholdi Pedestal Fund, 1883.

Emma Lazarus

Last night, hearing what Paul Ryan said about President Obama's decision to allow into the United States 10,000 Iraqi and Syrian refugees who have fled the aftermath of America's conquering limbs, the invasion of Iraq and the foreign policy and military blunders in the Middle East,  the first thing that came to mind was the fine poem of Emma Lazarus.   To me there is more of genuine Americanism in the finest sense of that word in her poem than there is in vast stretches of quotation from the political class, from the founding generation till today.   Democracy is so great, so vast, that it is unsafe to allow the public understanding of it to reside in the politically interested statements of those with power.  

The practice of allowing politicians to define democracy is an anti-democratic act, it puts the emphasis and power of definition in the wrong place. That a politically excluded, disenfranchised woman, a member of an ethnic-religious minority and of the gender who was generally taken as not being a serious thinker was able to say it so well, so much better than almost anyone else at the time demonstrates that point.  

A new Emma Lazarus could, very likely be a refugee from Iraq or Syria who took seriously the moral heart, the central aspiration of democracy, that all people are created equal and endowed with equal rights by their Creator seriously and to heart, making it their own.   There is something about the mystical aspect of democracy which is far closer to a religious view of reality than a materialistic view of reality can get to.   I have lost my previous faith that materialism can be the basis of democracy, I mean the intellectual form of materialism, not the vulgar materialism of the accumulation of wealth, the kind of materialism which Paul Ryan is so devoted to, I never believed that was compatible with democracy. 

Last night I started doing something I've never done before, reading more of her poetry than was put on the base of the Statue of Liberty, I've found in other cases when I did that, the poets who are eclipsed by one poem turned into an icon, ignoring what they so passionately and intelligently said in even that one poem,  often had a lot more to them than that.  You can use the internet to further degrade yourself or you can use it for something better.  It's your choice. 

Update:  Rereading the poem, I can't help but note that the list of those she asked for exactly corresponds to those who the eugenicists said needed to be wiped out.  The very people who had to flee Europe and other places made the country which rose as the European powers, Darwin's Britain, faded.  Yet Natural Selection is held to be a law of nature.   I will provide a documented list if necessary.  


  1. "There is nothing in science, in materialism, in an atheist-secular society which has the strength to tame and restrain such ideas."

    I hate to break it you, Sparky, but there's nothing in religion to tame and restrain those ideas either. Compliance is voluntary last time I looked.

    1. Other than saying this is one of your really stupid statements, I'll treat it more fully this afternoon.

  2. Sure to be comedy gold --can't wait.

  3. What? You going to submit it to Woody Allen or the Village Voice to tell you if it's funny or not?