The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

About Those ‘Huddled Masses’

Posted on | April 14, 2016 | 67 Comments


Mark Steyn takes aim at Emma Lazarus:

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.

Was her poem “The New Colossus” really that bad? No, I think the problem is in the interpretation, in the same way that the interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment has become a problem. In the minds of some people, among them Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is a python that swallows whole the rest of the Constitution, including the First and Tenth Amendments, so that the entire purpose of the federal government, according to this view, is to impose “equality” everywhere.

In his 1993 book Original Intentions: On the Making and Ratification of the United States Constitution, the late M.E. Bradford noted the way in which people conflate the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, so that phrases like “all men are created equal” and “the pursuit of happiness” attain in their minds the force of law. Jefferson’s expressions of lofty ideals, which some shallow minds never study carefully in their historic context, are then smuggled into the Constitution where they fornicate with the phrase “a more perfect Union,” thus breeding a bastard child — a mandate that the teleological purpose of the federal government is to make America “more perfect,” which is to say more “equal,” and also to guarantee “happiness” for everyone. Trying to get liberals to understand what’s wrong with this bastardized idea of the Founders’ intent is nearly hopeless. Justice Kennedy has obviously ceased to give a damn about the Constitution, so that the late Antonin Scalia went to his grave absolutely correct, and yet on the losing end of the crucial 5-4 majorities in Lawrence v. Texas, U.S. v. Windsor, and Obergefell v. Hodges.

Well, what does this have to do with Emma Lazarus? In the same way a few phrases from the Declaration get smuggled into the Constitution by liberals, so also have a few phrases from Lazarus’s famous poem about the Statue of Liberty attained legal authority in shallow minds. Peter Brimelow made a point of this in his excellent 1995 book Alien Nation: Common Sense About America’s Immigration Disaster. How is it that poetic phrases and the symbolism of the Statue of Liberty have become practically the only things so many people know about U.S. immigration policy?

Much like the problem with the Fourteenth Amendment, it seems impossible to get liberals to confront actual facts about immigration.

For all their blithe chatter about “critical thinking,” The Smart People™ don’t seem to do much of it. If a fact contradicts whatever is currently the Democrat mania, liberals always find some reason to dismiss this fact as irrelevant, or else to explain it away as having a liberal meaning, opposite to an obvious common-sense interpretation.

Here, let us cite “The New Colossus” in its entirety:

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-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Now, what is “the imprisoned lightning”? Liberty, which Lazarus correctly identifies as the great principle of the American nation. And why were the “huddled masses” and “wretched refuse” — the immigrants aboard ships steaming into the “air-bridged harbor” of New York — “yearning to breath free”? Do we know anything about these “ancient lands” of “storied pomp” from which these “Exiles” had come in search of their adoptive “Mother”? And what of Liberty herself, as symbol of the nation that extended this “world-wide welcome”?

Liberty and History, Policy and Poetry

It so happened that the Statue of Liberty was given to the United States by the citizens of France in 1776, commemorating the centennial of the Declaration of Independence. Considering that France had been our ally in the War of Independence against England, this gift was meant to remind Americans of France’s friendship and, considering that the French had recently gotten their imperial butts kicked in the Franco-Prussian War, France certainly could expect to need help from its friends going forward. This bit of historical context, you see, gives us a rather more cynical understanding of what the Statue of Liberty was really all about. Within 40 years of this gift, French soldiers would be bleeding to death under German machine-gun fire on the battlefields of World War One, into which America was inexorably drawn. And of course, again in World War Two, it became America’s job to save those “ancient lands” of “storied pomp” from the menace of German militarism.

Was any of that in the mind of Emma Lazarus when she wrote her poem “The New Colossus”? Of course not. She was a poet, not a diplomatic strategist, nor was she advocating any change in U.S. policy. She wrote her poem in 1883 — after the statue had been raised on an island in the harbor — which was almost the exact middle of the 80-year span, roughly 1840 to 1920, that Brimelow calls the “Era of Mass Immigration.” This era began at a time before the advent of steamships and locomotives, when America was still expanding its frontiers westward. It was not until U.S. victory in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) that California and the Southwest were added to our national territory, so that these vast expanses of sparsely populated western lands beckoned for settlers. You see that the “Era of Mass Immigration” got underway at a time when there was an organic demand for additional population here in the “Mother of Exiles,” and the vast expansion of U.S. industry — coal, steel, textiles, etc. — during subsequent decades meant that Liberty had a tremendous need for those “huddled masses.”

What about the “ancient lands” from which these exiles arrived? Well, in 1883, the ships that Emma Lazarus saw streaming into New York harbor past the Statue of Liberty contained a lot of Greeks and Italians. Indeed, the erstwhile empires of Greco-Roman fame had a lot of “storied pomp,” as did the Russian Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, both of which were even then teetering toward their final destruction in World War One. The contrast between the decadent empires of Europe, and the land of Liberty — a “mighty woman with a torch” — was certainly worthy of a poet’s notice, but the historian and the statesman must consider the sources of this contrast. Why had ancient Greece and Rome gone downhill? Why was Russia so backward and its government so despotic? Why was the Hapsburg dynasty unable to sustain harmony among its polyglot subjects? None of those questions interested Emma Lazarus who, although an excellent writer, was not a student of political, military or diplomatic history, the schools of statesmanship. We have no reason to believe Emma Lazarus was especially adept at economics or any other subject necessary to a study of immigration as public policy and, in fact, there is evidence that she was quite ignorant of U.S. policy circa 1883.

Whereas her poem has Liberty proclaiming “world-wide welcome” in New York harbor, on the West Coast, a policy of excluding Chinese and Japanese immigrants was being enforced in California — the “Yellow Peril” and all that — and Liberty herself was at that time not much interested in the “huddled masses” of black people, either as immigrants or among the former slaves who had quite recently gained their freedom from chattel slavery. In the so-called “Corrupt Bargain” of 1876, Rutherford B. Hayes had become president in exchange for an agreement by Republicans to end the military enforcement of Reconstruction in the South. In effect, the North gave its tacit assent to Jim Crow in the South, in order to maintain Republican control of the White House. Furthermore, as Southerners then and since have taken pains to point out, the treatment of black people in the North was not exactly in keeping with the lofty sentiments of “equality” and “liberty” that were so often invoked when Republicans waved “the Bloody Shirt” in election campaigns. Schools in the North were generally segregated, and black residents in Northern cities were mostly quite poor and restricted to living in certain neighborhoods, and there were few if any black immigrants responding to Liberty’s “world-wide welcome” in 1883. There was no shortage of outright racism in New York and other Northern cities at that time and, particularly in New England, the Republican Party gained votes by the tremendous ethnic and religious hostility toward Irish Catholics among the Yankee descendants of English Puritans.

All of that historic background as to the politics and policy of the United States circa 1883 is absent from the minds of those idiots (useful or otherwise) for whom the stirring poetry of Emma Lazarus has been transmogrified into a mandate for an open-borders immigration policy.

Every sound principle of statesmanship argues against this absurd idea that America should make “world-wide welcome” its policy, without any exception or numerical limit, and yet poetic sentiment has somehow replaced statesmanship as the basis of policy discussion.

‘Truth Is Great and Will Prevail’

What we suffer from most is an unwillingness to speak frankly, either about the reality of American history, or the nature of the problems we face in the present, or about the likely future consequences if we do not soon do something to solve these problems. As I have often reminded readers here, there are five A’s in “RAAAAACIST!” and a fear of being smeared as such tends to inhibit the honesty of conservatives when dealing with issues like this. Yet we have seen over and over, especially in the Obama Era, that conservatives will be labeled racists — excuse me, “RAAAAACIST!” — no matter what they say or do.

Another major problem is that conservatives, mindful of protecting the reputation of the Republican Party, are unwilling to tell the truth about the GOP’s actual history. Of course, Democrats have their own bogus propaganda version of history, hiding their long record of supporting slavery and Jim Crow, but it does not help the Republican Party for conservatives to flinch from the truth of their own past. There is a huge and significant difference between virtue and self-righteousness, and that difference can be summarized in a single word, honesty. Conservative spokesmen need to stop worrying so much about maintaining and enhancing their personal reputations, and instead focus on telling the plain truth, no matter how unpopular the truth might be.

“Truth is great and will prevail if left to herself . . . she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.”
Thomas Jefferson, Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, 1786

If we wish to preserve “the imprisoned lightning” of Liberty, you see, we need to tell the truth, and we need to start asking the right questions. Who are these “huddled masses,” and does Liberty need quite so many of them today as she needed in 1883? Are all the “wretched refuse” equally eligible for this “world-wide welcome”? Is it possible that, by permitting a floodtide of illegal immigration, America could lose Liberty herself?

Thank God for Mark Steyn, himself an immigrant, who is willing to ask tough questions and to provide truthful answers. We now find ourselves confronted with the spectacle of the “ancient lands” of Europe being drowned by an endless tsunami of Muslim immigration. Jean Rapail’s 1973 novel The Camp of the Saints is being acted out in front of our eyes on a daily basis — at least, if we are paying attention to what is actually happening in Europe — and only a fool could fail to recognize what this might mean for America. Whether we are concerned about the astonishing wave of Mexican immigration and radicals who envision the Reconquista of Atzlan, or the enclaves of Palestinians, Pakistanis and Somalis scattered around various U.S. cities, it is obvious that the current immigration system is a complete failure, and advocates of so-called “comprehensive” reform are likely to make the problem even worse.

Nowadays, it seems, the “huddled masses” are not the immigrants, whose alleged “rights” are celebrated by the influential elites in both major parties. Rather, the “huddled masses” in 2016 are American citizens who find that almost no one in power, not even among those who claim to be “conservative,” will defend the rights and interests of our own people.



67 Responses to “About Those ‘Huddled Masses’”

  1. gunga
    April 15th, 2016 @ 6:56 am

    Astronaut George Taylor said it best: “…you finally really did it. You maniacs! You blew it up!…aah, damn you…damn you all to hell.”

  2. Daniel Freeman
    April 15th, 2016 @ 8:53 am

    Yes. Not all, but in general we have gone from statesmen to sociopaths who honestly believe that what is legal is what you can get away with.

    ETA: One of my fears is that they’re so dumb that they just want to make the legislative process faster.

  3. Daniel Freeman
    April 15th, 2016 @ 9:42 am

    1965. Even in science, progress is often made by people dying. How much more true is that of politics?

    ETA: I’m speaking of the allotted three score and ten. It is not a threat since I’m not a Muslim.

  4. Daniel Freeman
    April 15th, 2016 @ 10:14 am

    Souvenir hand towel? I sense a story behind that, and I would love to hear it. Something you can tell?

  5. Daniel Freeman
    April 15th, 2016 @ 10:18 am

    I notice and appreciate how you simplified that. Thank you.

  6. Daniel Freeman
    April 15th, 2016 @ 10:27 am

    The SJWs are so horrible that at this point, I would throw a party if we could just get to the point where people don’t get fired for having an opinion. They’re literally that awful.

  7. NeoWayland
    April 15th, 2016 @ 11:13 am

    I’m not sure the politicos have changed as much as their ability to cause Massive Amounts of Damage has gone up and we’re better informed about their hmm, indiscretions than we used to be.

    I absolutely agree with you. We don’t want government efficiency. We want them arguing and delaying and digging in their heels.

    We also don’t want government to be the first choice when a problem happens either.

  8. NeoWayland
    April 15th, 2016 @ 11:16 am

    Always, always, always less government than absolutely necessary.

  9. NeoWayland
    April 15th, 2016 @ 11:28 am

    I was young, coming out of a really bad relationship, and was looking for the Divine Feminine in the wrong place.

    The very wrong place.

    It was also my first real exposure to “the personal is political” and it took me years to untangle my head from that mindspace.

    It’s where I learned that religion should never be a part of politics.

    Anyway, gifts were exchanged. Something ended up becoming a hand towel when it was intended as something else. Which in turn showed me how fluid definitions could be for certain people.

    Yes that was a pun. A bad one, but still a pun.

  10. Quartermaster
    April 15th, 2016 @ 1:28 pm

    You have a problem with projection. You tend to make it about you. You’re simply a solipsist.

  11. NeoWayland
    April 15th, 2016 @ 1:42 pm

    And three times is the charm.

    So you are no longer interested in discussing either immigration or the Founders view of posterity.

    May we assume that you are conceding the point?

    Or will you find something relevant to talk about?

    I think RS point was well put. I also like Daniel Freeman’s phrase “Already-Americans.” That ties in nicely with the the Theodore Roosevelt quote that Adobe_Walls mentioned.

    So do you have something else to add?

  12. Isaac T
    April 15th, 2016 @ 2:34 pm

    William S. Lind says that God made two two republics: Switzerland to show how it could be done well, and the United States to serve as a warning to everyone else.

  13. A_Nonny_Mouse
    April 16th, 2016 @ 5:27 am

    Just sayin’,dam-spammer: If *I* were God-Emperor of the USA, people like you would be hanged, very-very slowly. An inch at a time. On public TV, “pour encourager les autres”.

  14. Steve Skubinna
    April 16th, 2016 @ 12:32 pm

    Everyone has done something wrong.

  15. Steve Skubinna
    April 16th, 2016 @ 12:36 pm

    Even most socon’s stance could be summed up as “Not on my front lawn, and stay the hell away from my daughter, you freak!”

    I seriously do not know any conservative, fiscal or social, who wants the government mandating and regulating personal behavior. Proggies, on the other hand, are all about using the coercive power of the government to usher in their utopia.

  16. NeoWayland
    April 16th, 2016 @ 4:59 pm

    Unfortunately I do know such conservatives. I’m even distantly related to some.

    But they tend to annoy everyone. Which means they usually stay a minor annoyance.

  17. Daniel Freeman
    April 17th, 2016 @ 3:41 am

    Ah. I think I know what you mean, since I treat my late brother-in-law’s wedding golf towel as a twist-off beer bottle cap hand protector and consider that loving remembrance.

    Life! It’s complicated!