Ichabod's Kin
A place for politics, pop culture, and social issues

Re-Gifting Lady Liberty

Site #307: The Statue of Liberty (United States).

Image via Wikipedia

‘Twas the day for Giving. Now are days for re-gifting–passing unneeded or unwanted gifts on to others, or Return to Sender.

Given our anti-immigrant rhetoric and legislation, it’s time to send the Statue of Liberty back to France. Call it a re-gifting of Lady Liberty.
We don’t like immigrants. But did we ever? Killing the DREAM Act is the latest installment.

Yet we’re so proud of our immigration stories, forgetting they’re all about a bare-knuckle journey for the right to be here. They were crowded into tenements and deprived of constitutional protections till they gained enough political power to enforce those rights. For every tale of hard work and endurance are a hundred others of bigotry and repression against them, and of the national foot squarely on their necks.

Frank Sinatra, the voice by which many of my readers grew up and became part of the fabric of America, is one about whose Italian-American generation we know so little. When he was poised to become Public Heart Throb Number one, Italians were woefully looked down upon. Who knows, or remembers, that they were not even considered white by other Americans at the time?

Like other Italian kids, he knew about social repression and understandably admired the bosses and Dons of mob and mafia who were, to them, heroes who stood up to the WASPs who would keep them down. We like to think Frankie wasn’t really a bag-man for Lucky Luciano, but most likely he was, on that infamous trip to Havana.

Sinatra made his mistakes and paid dearly for them. When he asked a mob boss to help JFK get elected, he did so as a “personal favor,” one that blew up in his face when the thanks they got was Bobby Kennedy’s ripping into the crime syndicates. One wrong bred other wrongs, and organized crime had to be stopped, but it’s important to know how and why it all came about.

In those days there was also our need for migratory labor. War War II was underway and while many white Americans were in battle, those who weren’t balked at doing menial jobs. So beginning in 1942 we had the Bracero program where Mexican workers came in on temporary visas to do what needed to be done.

Then, like now, they were resented and, like now, were blamed because we were unhappy with a war and its economy. They were condemned to incredibly poor housing, often denied their rightful wages and suffered the violence of that kind of racism.

That jackass Patrick Buchanan, who’s somewhere to the right of the Sheriff of Nottingham, is now busy reciting figures showing that employment is up for undocumented workers–as if that alone is a crime, but again, like 50 years ago, it’s because others won’t do those jobs.

It’s a lose-lose situation for the migrants. To the surprise of right-wingers, George Bush supported their presence, for which American agri-business was grateful because it met their needs, like the big farmers and oh, yes, the construction industry that can’t get white folks to install roofs in the hot sun of places like, say, Arizona. It was a union-busting move: let the unions suffer from the drop in wages; George could throw out the Mexicans later–or demand their votes as payoff.

If you have a conscience, you get tired of singing about “land of the free” and tear-ing up when you pass the Statue of Liberty. This is such hypocrisy, as were the tears Sen. Mitch McConnell shed over Judd Gregg’s retirement from the Senate; earlier ol’ Mitcheroo was dry-eyed while he voted against relief and benefits for First Responders at 9/11. Check out the panel of those dying men as they watched clips of McConnell’s sappy sentimentality after denying them justice.

Thus, I propose this letter to France at this holiday season:
“Dear President Sarkozy, your lovely wife and all sons and daughters of the French who gifted us many years ago with the Statue of Liberty: No offense, but we’re sending Her back. Turns out we don’t like people other than ourselves, our color and who are lucky enough to have been born here. As you may have heard, we also don’t like other religions or their houses of worship.

“You have every right to regret, even to resent, our re-gifting Lady Liberty, but as you read this note you mayl understand why. We still have a lot of work to do, especially on ourselves. You would think we were beyond nativism, xenophobia, and prejudice of all sorts but, oops, we’re not, and having a big empty pedestal  near Ellis Island may be a sobering reminder. We seek your patience whilst we engage in our rehabilitative endeavors.

“You may consider exhibiting the Statue when it returns to your care. It would look splendiferous atop the Eiffel Tower. And who knows, if ever we grow up and deserve all the blessings of our rich land and its magnificent Constitution and Bill of Rights, you may wish to re-gift it again, and return Her to the originally intended site. If so, we will even pay for shipping.”

5 Responses to “Re-Gifting Lady Liberty”

  1. It seems second nature for immigrants to despise later immigrants.
    Meanwhile, you’ve reminded me of an old Tom Lehrer song (granted, it doesn’t take much):
    “And after all, even in Egypt, the Pharaohs
    Had to import – Hebrew Braceros!”

  2. A bit extreme but true. Made your point and did not have to mention Fox news and the hollow heads. I do object to the statement that whites balk at doing menial jobs. You can get sufficient labor to do anything if the pay justifies it. Certain industries including farming wants cheep labor and is supported by the general public. I always said that I would stand on my head and stack marbles for enough money.
    The roofs got done before non documented labor was available, it just cost more.
    The problem is cheap wages, not that someone with a little higher living standard will not do them. An extra 5 cents on a $1.00 head of lettuce could raise the labor to get a lot of people picking lettuce.
    I spent a lot of sun up to sun down days picking and chopping cotton as a kid in southern Missouri. My only reward was three meal and a home and I would not have had it any other way.

    • The generation of Italian immigrants you mention were called WOPS, a derogatory term meaning Without Papers of identification, the equivalent of today’s undocumented aliens. Nothing has changed very much except the targets of our ire.
      A previous comment suggested that non-immigrants would do the menial jobs if the pay scale was adequate. Unfortunately many of the politicians who are anti-immigrant are also committed to keeping wages at a minimum. When it comes to raising the minimum wage they are the first to say it is bad for small business and the economy.

      • The comment by Rev. Middleton is right-on, and an important attachment to my Post on immigration as it relates to Italian Americans. I will only add that “undocumented” was the original term used but today is lost in the GOP and Radical Right rhetoric use of “alien” (which used to be a formal term but now in a pejorative tone) and “illegal” in order to fan fires of anger towards certain migrants. I congratulate Middleton for being one of too few clergy in our land who has a brain and uses it.

  3. I would be proud to accompany Miss Liberty wherever her message is held dear.

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