Yesterday I joined Tucker Carlson to discuss Stephen Miller's dust-up with CNN's Jim Acosta, who seems to think the White House press conference exists for him to perform daily 20-minute demonstrations of the anatomical feat Anthony Scaramucci memorably ascribed to Stephen Bannon. Be that as it may, much of the Miller/Acosta kerfuffle revolved around Emma Lazarus' poem at the foot of the Statue of Liberty. US News reports:
The White House advisor appeared to distance himself from the 1883 "huddled masses" poem inscribed at the base of the landmark, chiding reporter Jim Acosta. Miller's remarks shocked many, even as supporters argue the symbolic poem technically isn't US law.
Yes, it's true: this poem "technically isn't US law". It's not statute law, or even statue law. When Shelley said "Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world", he didn't intend for you to take it literally, as apparently half the population of America now does. And, if we have to have poems as law, let's start with Shelley's and work our way down - way down - to Emma Lazarus.
Still, I'm sorry to see the excitable pajama boys who follow Judd Legum seem to think I'm a johnny-come-lately jumping on the Lazaruphobic bandwagon:
Jeesus. One guy trashes it (inaccurately) and the entire right wing trashes it now. Is this actually happening?
Actually, I've been trashing this stinker for years:
Mr. Suro neglected to mention that Irving Berlin set "The New Collossus" to music... "Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor" is one of the dreariest tunes Berlin ever composed. From the guy who wrote "White Christmas," "God Bless America," and "There's No Business Like Show Business," it's bizarrely formal and stilted — as if he read through Emma Lazarus's words and couldn't hear any music in them...
But it is striking to me how effective it's been as an act of cultural appropriation. The poem is used to invert precisely the meaning of the statue. The actual sculpture is called "Liberty Enlightening The World" and shows her holding a tablet marked "1776." In other words, it's not about importing people but about exporting American ideas. And, if you did that effectively, you wouldn't need to import huddled masses — or, at any rate, not on such a scale. Emma Lazarus has been used to subvert the Statue of Liberty.
Last year I took another crack at it in my closing statement for the 2016 Munk Debate on "refugees":
UKIP leader Nigel Farage went first, very effectively; then Columbia historian Simon Schama, who chose to read out the famous "Meditation XVII" from John Donne's Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions; I was up next; and finally former UN Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour, who insisted that there's no difference between the once supposedly unassimilable Irish Catholics and East European Jews and the new Pushtun goatherds and Mogadishu hoodlums. It's one of the curious aspects of self-proclaimed "multiculturalists" that they are, essentially, uniculturalists: they think everybody's the same.
But sometimes history doesn't repeat itself - and Emma Lazarus' lousy poem is an even lousier guide to social policy.
Here's my closing remarks, which I'm glad to say helped win the debate for the Farage-Steyn side:
I'll stand by that. Liberty and immigration are not the same thing, and sometimes immigration is expressly inimical to liberty - as in the policies of most western governments right now. From my words above:
We cannot fix failed states by inviting millions of their people to move in with us. All that ensures is more failed states, more failure, and eventually, one by one, the nations of the west will join them. And then you'll really be yearning to breathe free and there will be nowhere to do it.
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