I suppose it was inevitable that Connecticut’s Attorney General would sign on to California’s federal lawsuit seeking to block president Donald Trump from redirecting federal funds to build a border wall with Mexico. Watching Connecticut Attorney General William Tong run for office last year felt like watching a campaign for national office. Battling Billy Tong ran hard on his anti-Trump platform. I understood the politics even though I viewed the campaign as largely bombast.
But I have a question: How much is Battling Billy’s blather costing the State of Connecticut? The point of having an attorney general in this state is to enforce state laws, not play-acting at national politics.
Let me put my cards on the table: I think the president should build a border wall. Immigration patterns are changing in response to climate change and regional instability. The United States can’t afford to be a destination nation for each and every soul in the world looking for a better life. The fact is, we can’t care adequately for the folks already here. American life-expectancy is declining, suicide rates are climbing, and real wages aren’t growing. Bye-bye, American pie.
Battling Billy has no discernable experience in national politics, and, aside from being the son of immigrants from China, no real experience on immigration issues. Yet, he’s quick to read from the Blue State playbook on Trump: "To fabricate a national emergency based on the representation that our southern border has been breached and that people are pouring in through our border with Mexico and this is unprecedented, is a lie,'' Tong said.
Are we really paying Battling Billy to give us a low-rent version of MSNBC?
Candidly, a moratorium on immigration strikes me as a good idea; just as it strikes me as a good idea to reassess our role as global policeman. We’ve made more commitments to the world than we can honor. It’s high time to retreat, reassess and rearrange our priorities. That’s not un-American; it’s prudence.
But what of the Statute of Liberty and its majestic invitation to the world?
It is a sentimental set piece to hear of immigrants streaming to the nation in response to Emma Lazarus’s invitation. “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!,” Lazarus wrote in a poem called The New Colossus.
Those words are on the Statute of Liberty, for goodness’s sake!
The fact of the matter is that the poem is affixed to a plaque on the pedestal on which Lady Liberty stands. The statute itself was a gift from France, arriving in the United States in 1885, and assembled and in place on Ellis Island in 1886. Lazarus’s poem was composed to help raise funds to build the pedestal; the French covered the cost of the statue and its transportation across the Atlantic. Emma’s poem was an afterthought.
I suspect that although Lazarus’s poem is a sentimental favorite, a goodly number of Americans regard it as a political promise we can’t honor. We don’t want the world’s poor. We’re not a berth for the wretched refuse of the world. We’ve plenty of homeless people already here.
Waiting for verdicts in a courtroom is tension-filled. I break the tension with practical jokes, jokes often of a decidedly juvenile nature.
“Oh, my God,” I gasped the other day while looking at my cellphone.
The others in the courtroom looked up, startled by my outburst.
“I just received a news alert. President Trump just announced that he is returning the Statute of Liberty to France. He said we’re not looking for more immigrants just now.”
No one laughed. It is a sign of the times that such news could, in fact, be real. The great showman president could decide to make that gesture. Didn’t he refer to “shit-hole countries” not long ago?
We all agreed this was a move that would be in character for Trump.
Such a move would outrage Battling Billy. He’d man whatever barricade he could find, no doubt, to avoid this desecration of the American creed. “We’re a nation of immigrants,” he’d cry.
Yes, many of us are of immigrant stock. My father came here as an illegal immigrant and died under cloak of forged papers. He was never “naturalized.” He snuck into the United States from Canada at the Windsor-Detroit border; he and his father were from Crete, and my father lived for years as an armed robber. He told me before he died it was a good living.
He didn’t pass by the Statute of Liberty. We didn’t recite Emma Lazarus’s line as an invitation we accepted. Indeed, after he shot a man in 1954, he fled Detroit to hide in Chicago, taking with him the very young woman he was seeing. Shortly thereafter, she became my mother. When he couldn’t cut the “straight” life, as he called the workaday world, he left us. I didn’t see him again for 40 years; indeed, I didn’t know whether he was alive of dead until he reappeared in my life one day as if by magic.
That’s America. Chance. Contingency. Character. Making the most of the material at hand and not looking back. Emma Lazarus is silly sentimentality. We could remove that plaque from the Statute of Liberty as a step in the direction of national maturity.
So build the damn wall in Mexico, I say. Stop all this chatter about the open arms of a nation of immigrants. We stole the county from native Americans, built a goodly portion of its wealth with slave labor, and today stand on the precipice of national exhaustion. Truisms don’t built roads, address climate change, or give a realistic basis for hope.
If we don’t build the wall this year, we’ll build it in the years to come. The inn is crowded just now; there isn’t room for everyone. That’s reality speaking.
Of course, the sound of that will offend the ears of Battling Billy. But I listen to him, and I listen to Trump, and I grow weary. Can’t we do better than these clowns for political leadership? One bleats, the other blathers. In the meantime, nothing gets done.
It’s enough to make Lady Liberty weep. She traveled across the Atlantic to listen to this?