the new collosus - emma lazarus
This sonnet has been inscribed upon the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, and plays a great part in propelling the vision of the Statue, and, by extension, America as the "welcoming mother" - the first thing that immigrants see on the coast - to displaced and immigrant communities from across the globe.
"‘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!’"
have been etched into the collective imaginary of the people of America. The poem is an instance of the Petrarchan sonnet becoming a receptacle for national pride - popular sentiment of shelter, care and sensitivity to the "poor...the huddled masses..the homeless", the immigrants. Ha! what an irony, is it not?
Lazarus's sonnet contrasts this welcoming spectre to a brazen Greek colossus, and showcases an embodiment of America as the land of opportunity and warmth. The journey of this commissioned sonnet is an interesting example of art as propaganda and how we come to terms with it. One could even, for instance extend the same analysis to the work of Leni Riefenstahl in Nazi Germany
In a time where America has become a nest of hatred, governed by another self-absorbed narcisisstic xenophobic bully of a man, this poem stands out in stark contrast to what the country's founding mothers and fathers imagined. From separation of immigrant children from their parents, to the "wall" to dubious ICE raids, Trump's governance has been tempered by an arsenal of racist, anti-people, anti-muslim, white supremacist rhetoric. Still, as an Indian caught in the same web of deceit and bombast, I sometimes wonder whether an idiotic bully is an easier opponent than a Machiavellian freak of nature like Modi.
political cartoon background image: https://www.seattletimes.com/…/trump-immigration-policy-se…/