Jim Wagner
The Sad Colossus
By Jim Wagner
January 17, 2018

Last Thursday, it is alleged, Donald Trump referred to certain third world countries as dung holes. In context, he wanted to know why Democrats insist on accepting immigrants exclusively from places of poverty and ignorance, where the governments are cesspools of corruption and the streets are open sewers.

Trump did not have to wait long for an answer. That roaring sound you heard on the heels of the President's supposed remark was the shriek of Pharisees from coast to coast rending their garments. In pursuit of impeachment of this president, or of a 25th Amendment disqualification, they had been trumpeting the motif that he is mentally unstable. And so his asserted use of the poop word was just the pretext they had been looking for. "Behold! He hath spoken blasphemy," they cried! "What further need have we of witnesses!" And from their throng a sullen murmur quickly rose to a shrill scream. "Crucify him!"

Propaganda outlets across the land were quick to remind us of our national mandate to prioritize immigrants from just such reeking places. They extolled the solemn obligation we accepted from France along with our Statue of Liberty. "Give us...the wretched refuse of your teeming shore...," they demanded! It would be immoral, they insisted, and "not who we are as a people," to impose any merit requirement upon those who wish to live among us and benefit from the institutions we have built.

But this is not the first time this suicidally flawed fallacy has been dangled before us. In a 2010 tour promoting amnesty for the millions who have disdainfully violated our national sovereignty, President Obama plucked our heart strings with the rhapsodic tale of "a young woman...whose own family fled persecution (and who) took up the cause of these new immigrants. Although she was a poet," Obama asserted, "she spent much of her time advocating for better health care, housing (sic) for the newcomers. And inspired by what she saw and heard she wrote down her thoughts and donated a piece of work to help pay for the construction of a new statue. The Statue of Liberty!"
    The New Colossus

    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.

It is indeed a touching poem! The concluding lines are gripping in their familiar imagery. If only Obama's rousing eulogy were true! In the former President's saccharine fantasia, author Emma Lazarus was an American visionary and patriot of the first order who, "years before it would come to symbolize what we cherish...imagined what it could mean...one's arrival at a place of opportunity and refuge." Sounds like the audacity of hope! But in fact there is no evidence Lazarus ever considered the Statue of Liberty at all until long after it was completed. And her celebrated humanitarian impulse was singularly political.

Emma Lazarus grew up a non-observant Jew and sugar refinery heiress in an elite New York family. There is no hint that her ancestors were persecuted at any time in the New World, and in fact they came to North America not from Europe but from Brazil. Her father, who traced his Colonial pedigree to New Amsterdam in 1654, was a man of extravagant wealth who hobnobbed with the likes of Vanderbilts and Astors. He was a member of the exclusive Union Club and a founder of the prestigious Knickerbocker Club.

The source of the family's hereditary wealth is not entirely clear, but it is known that Moses Lazarus held a partnership in a Louisiana plantation and was thus an absentee slaveholder. It is recorded that "Magnolia Plantation" had a reputation for extreme cruelty – so much so that in 1863 many of its slaves begged to enlist in the Confederate Army. And yet Moses Lazarus remained connected to the plantation throughout the Civil War years. His related processing operation on 16th Street in New York City included a "distillery of spirits." The swill that was a byproduct of this venture was fed to cattle at his adjoining dairy, an enterprise so unsanitary, according to an 1853 New York Times article entitled "Death in a Jug," as to cause the deaths of eight thousand of the city's children every year.

Young Ms Lazarus, a denizen of uptown Manhattan, was well connected, both politically and socially. Her first cousin, Benjamin Cardozo, was a Supreme Court Justice. Her maternal uncle was the president of the New York Stock Exchange, and an uncle on her father's side a renowned portrait artist. The beneficiary of an elite private education, Emma was lettered in music, arts, literature and languages. Her father paid for the publication of her early poetry, through which she met, at the tender age of nineteen, such luminaries as Ralph Waldo Emerson. Among her other intimate correspondents were Turgenev, Henry James, Robert Browning and James Russell Lowell, all among the most prestigious writers of her age.

Emma's life was one of ease. She enjoyed a summer cottage (that is, a mansion) in Newport Rhode Island with the rest of fashionable society, and though ethnically Jewish, moved in the highest circles of Christian blue blood. She never spent an instant of her life in poverty, or for that matter as one of the "teeming masses yearning to breathe free," and her only connection to the working class was her oft repeated complaint over "the wretched quality of work performed by the vast majority of American mechanics and domestic servants." Notwithstanding Obama's wistful hagiography, Emma Lazarus certainly never championed "health care" or public housing. She enjoyed critical acclaim as a poet and author from her earliest years, and circulated among the great literary lights of her generation. And yet in spite of the fact that there was in the mid 19th century America no stigma attached to being Jewish, she harbored an abiding resentment based on her expressed conviction that personal slights she endured, real or imagined, were related to her ethnicity.

Whether this self-alienation was the instigation for or the effect of her primary loyalty to her race is unclear. However the cause that attracted Emma's most fervent devotion was not America, but the destiny of what she called "her own" Semite people, and more specifically a national home for world Jewry. Her expressed life's work was to create a refuge for Eastern Europe's oppressed Jews. She was the first to promote, as early as 1880, the founding of a Jewish state in Palestine. And in 1883 she formed "The Society for the Improvement and Colonization of East European Jews" for that purpose. The great bulk of her literary work was also ethnic in character, and her best known poem, prior to "The New Colossus" was, by startling coincidence, "The Banner of the Jew," an anthem calling for the creation of an exclusively Jewish nation. Among her other works were "Songs of a Semite" and "Epistle to the Hebrews." It is impossible to separate Emma's seemingly altruistic sentiments, as now expressed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, from her parochial vision for a secular Jewish State. America was for her, as for the "tempest tossed" people of her vision, at best a transitional home on the road to a New Jerusalem.

This is not to say that Emma Lazarus had no other interests. She was also an outspoken supporter of William Morris, a contemporary author and founder of the "Hammersmith Socialist Party." Morris is best known for his "Summary of the Principles of Socialism," his "Chants for Socialists," and in hindsight his more ominous "Signs of Change." Lazarus wrote glowingly of Morris and his tenets, though ironically she felt that his doctrine was premature in America where, in her words, "the avenues to prosperity were as yet too broad."

Viewed from this perspective, Emma Lazarus's fervent call for America to accept the "wretched refuse" of the world's "teeming shores" comes across as just a touch disingenuous. In fact, she endorsed only Jewish immigration and seems to have cared little about the implications of such a policy for the country of her birth so long as it advanced the agenda of the country of her dreams. That is not to say that relief for oppressed peoples, whoever they might be, is an unworthy cause. But Emma Lazarus never wrote a stanza about the plight of the neighboring tenement poor of New York City, or a single verse about the Louisiana plantation slaves from whom her father drew much of the wealth that supported her easy living. Before we accept Lazarus's special pleading as the by-line for our national destiny, we would do well to reflect on the true agenda of the author. Because for Emma Lazarus the Statue of Liberty was not so much the goddess Liberty as a Trojan Horse for Zionism!

Like Emma Lazarus before them, today's pro-amnesty politicians use the Statue of Liberty to advance a notably partisan and racially specific political agenda. But at least in Emma's defense it can be said that she was entirely open about her ethnic motives. Democrats today, by contrast, would have us believe that the "Mother of Exiles" shines her light to welcome convicted felons and drug dealers and welfare cheats because we as a nation would benefit from such diversity. But of course the intended beneficiaries of this scheme are mostly from south of our borders, and sentient Americans have long since come to understand that by "diversity" our elites really mean huddled masses of Democrats yearning to vote.

As to Emma's poem, was it a spontaneous ejaculation of noble sentiment? Hardly! It was a poetry contest winner, written to fund only the pedestal for Lady Liberty. The statue itself was a Centennial gift from the French intended to commemorate their collaboration with America's founders in the cause of liberty, a cause for which those on the left appear to have little passion. Is it not curious how those who cannot accept the literal meaning of our Constitution insist upon absolute fidelity to the whimsical lines of one who was no champion of our traditions or our institutions, but rather a partisan for a transparently alien interest! If we really intend to indiscriminately accept millions of illegal aliens, many of them criminals and parasites, it may be time to revise the inscription on the base of the Statue that once guarded our nation's port of entry. I propose a new contest, and offer this humble entry:
    The Sad Colossus

    Not like the founding vision of people free
    To forge their destinies with their own hands,
    But rather, the detritus of backward lands
    Demand now the product of our liberty.
    Despising our standard, they lay claim to be
    Our heirs; though from their hostile sands
    They bring scant benefit; rather, they dream to see
    Our once great state bowed in like misery!
    Grant, new world, your legacy to these,
    The sullen masses clamoring at our door,
    For amnesty, welfare, and what's more,
    The right to hate us as we them appease
    With affirmative action; and if there's war,
    The right to sit it out while overseas
    The sons of those who built this glorious place
    Shed their life's blood in silence and disgrace.
© Jim Wagner


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

Jim Wagner

Jim Wagner is a retired businessman and freelance writer. His degree is in Psychology with a minor in English from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, where he lived, worked, farmed and studied for nine years after his repudiation of the Vietnam War... (more)


Receive future articles by Jim Wagner: Click here

More by this author


Stephen Stone
The most egregious lies Evan McMullin and the media have told about Sen. Mike Lee

Siena Hoefling
Protect the Children: Update with VIDEO

Stephen Stone
Flashback: Dems' fake claim that Trump and Utah congressional hopeful Burgess Owens want 'renewed nuclear testing' blows up when examined

Bonnie Chernin
States wrongs infringe on human rights

Michael Bresciani
Riley Gaines: An all-American class act

Curtis Dahlgren
A funny thing happened on the way to Damascus

Rev. Mark H. Creech
Revelation Chapter 19: The grandeur of Christ’s return (Part 1)

Bonnie Chernin
Israel's abortion policy will imperil their security

Jerry Newcombe
An amazing story of redemption out of Pearl Harbor

R.T. Neary
Youthful medicine made in the USA—and it’s free of charge. Let’s manufacture a lot more

Cherie Zaslawsky
Israel in the crosshairs, Part Two

Pete Riehm
The world shares Israel’s problems

Peter Lemiska
The poisonous mix of imported hatred and home-grown ignorance

Michael Bresciani
Prophecy 2024: Major prophecies are closing fast

Selwyn Duke
For the West to live, immigration(ism) must die
  More columns


Click for full cartoon
More cartoons


Matt C. Abbott
Chris Adamo
Russ J. Alan
Bonnie Alba
Chuck Baldwin
Kevin J. Banet
J. Matt Barber
Fr. Tom Bartolomeo
. . .
[See more]

Sister sites