Traverse City Record-Eagle


December 2, 2012

Fred Goldenberg: Pull on rope together

'The New Colossus" is a sonnet by Emma Lazarus (1849-87), written in 1883 and, in 1903, engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted inside the lower level of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.

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-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

In this very troubling partisan time we live in I wanted us to reread this poem just to try to remember what made this country great. I suspect that there isn't a single individual reading this who didn't have at least one great-grandparent enter this country without passing under the gaze of the Lady in the Harbor.

What I find most troubling is that where we once opened our doors to the "huddled masses," today we are willing to slam that door on those who aren't crossing oceans to get here, but live next door or across the street.

The Census Bureau recently released updated figures relating to poverty utilizing new methodology. Taking into account all data including medical costs and work-related expenses, the number of Americans currently living in poverty has climbed to 49.7 million.

Why is it so hard to understand that we have an obligation to lend a hand to those in need, an obligation as a country to care for our elderly, to provide for our children and to give dignity to those who need help?

In November, the country voted. Even many of the dissenting voices agree that the American people have spoken. Loudly, they said that they expect more from their elected officials: more compassion, more understanding and mostly, more realization that those in need of help aren't just "takers," but people whose circumstances are not of their making or choice.

Most troubling in the new data report is that:

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