Opinion » Editorial

Not My America

by Gary Bailey
Wednesday Feb 8, 2017

But it is my Boston

"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."

On Sunday January 29th 2017 I joined with over 15,000 Bostonians to protest the Executive Order issued by the current president to limit access of Muslim immigrants from seven countries to enter the United States.

Ironically, as I stood near the Kahlil Gibran Memorial in Copley Square I could not help but recall that Gibran was a Lebanese-American artist, writer, and philosopher who himself immigrated to the United States in 1895, at the age of 12; and while living in Boston, wrote, and illustrated his most famous book, The Prophet, a poetic treatise on such topics as family, religion, and death.

Also echoing through my head were the words from the Emma Lazarus poem "The New Colossus" The poem written in 1883 to raise money for the construction of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty and was engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted inside the pedestal's lower level where it remains today, and has become endemic of an America which opens her doors outwards to the world as a beacon of hope and possibility.

Though America does have a very complicated history and legacy when it comes to immigration, both forced and voluntary, it still is a country that is seen by many as a place where people from diverse backgrounds across the globe are welcomed, and accepted.

Boston too has a rich long and complex history when it comes to immigrants and immigration .It was the place where those escaping devastating famine in Ireland came in an attempt to make a home for themselves and their families ; it is a city where people from Caribbean islands Caribbean emigrated and established roots that are deeply embedded in parts of the city; Boston has welcomed to it shores people who have escaped atrocities in Armenia and become a home to individuals from the Cape Verde Islands.

In 1764 Boston, or this " Athens of America" as the city was nicknamed by Samuel Addams , an American statesman, political philosopher, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Adams was a politician in colonial Massachusetts, a leader of the movement that became the American Revolution, and one of the architects of the principles of American republicanism that shaped the political culture of the United States.

Today, in 2017 Boston continues to be a place where people come from countries in Asia and Africa to make new beginnings for themselves and for their families. With our numerous colleges, universities and premier medical facilities. Our city has long been a place where immigrants come to study and to share their skills and talents; so it was not surprising to me that so many people were in Copley Square on a Sunday afternoon standing in solidarity and protesting this egregious act by the 45th president to limit access to that which so many others- including members of his own family - have benefitted from the right to begin anew in safety and security. As I stood there and read signs that protested the most recent executive order by the 45th president of the United States I could not help but think to myself that indeed this was not my America; but it is indeed my Boston, and protest we will to ensure that the rights of all are protected and ensured.

So, in the words of Emma Lazarus:
"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."

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