Lady Liberty

The Statue of Liberty stands in New York harbor, where it has stood since 1886 to welcome the “huddled masses yearning to be free.” It stands there still, facing across the Atlantic Ocean toward our European friends. Its beacon has been a welcoming beacon all these many years.

To our north, the Canadian border is marked in some places by a simple painted line, a post, and a small guardhouse that is largely unattended. This is the longest boundary in the world between two neighboring countries, over 5,000 miles long.

There is no wall.

But there is talk of placing a wall to our south, facing toward our Latino neighbors and friends. A wall that would not welcome them but would keep them out, discourage them from trying to enter, prevent them from joining us.

The Statue of Liberty stands for what we stand for – freedom, opportunity. The border crossing to Canada is what a boundary between neighbors looks like.

Jonathan Clark/Nogales International via AP

But what does a wall stand for?

A wall is a message. A wall says “Keep out. Keep away. This is MINE and I don’t want to share it with YOU. You’re not like me – you’re different. Stay out.

We tell Europeans to send us their “huddled masses” and tell Canadians to make themselves at home. That is what America is – a welcoming home for those who seek better opportunity or greater safety or shelter.

But some would tell Latinos to keep out. Some say “go away” to the peoples of Mexico and Guatemala and Honduras and other Latin countries. Some call them rapists, murderers, gang members, drug lords. Some challenge anyone who is Latino, and threaten to take away the care and food and water that might keep them alive. Some would say “turn around – go back”.

Some would build a wall.

This isn’t what America is about. The American dream is a dream we take pride in because it is a dream for all the peoples of the world.

A wall is a nightmare. A wall is the opposite of what America offers the world. A wall says:

America is Closed

America must never be closed.

We are proud of our country and proud of being the shelter for the world – what Ronald Reagan called “a shining city upon a hill.” That city is not cowering behind a wall, weak and afraid. Reagan said:

it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace – a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors, and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here… she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the Pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.

We are not the America of walls, of weakness, of fear.

We are the America of Lady Liberty, standing proudly, facing outward, holding her lamp high and gleaming beside our golden door, saying: “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.”