Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor … and Eight Tiny Reindeer

By John Zmirak Published on August 3, 2017

Let’s start with the snark, before permitting ourselves any sincere heartfelt emotion, ok? The best Tweet I’ve seen this week, nay this year, appears below. It refers to the televised scuffle between CNN’s Jim Acosta, who plays a reporter on TV, and White House speechwriter and big brain Stephen Miller. (Read George Neumayr for a sober account of the exchange.)

The topic? Immigration and the Statue of Liberty. Miller gave a reasoned presentation of Trump’s new immigration plan, which while imperfect, would vastly improve our legal admission of newcomers. It serves the national interest, avoids invidious discrimination, and ends an absurd system created by Teddy Kennedy in 1965, apparently on a bar napkin after his sixth shot of Jameson’s.

In response, Acosta read a poem.

It’s a wonderful poem, actually. But it’s just a poem. You know, like “Twas The Night Before Christmas.” The words “Give me your tired, your poor,” etc. have the same legal weight in America as

“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!”

And here’s where that exquisite Tweet comes in.

Bad Facts! Bad!

Miller responded by telling Acosta far more about the poem itself than Acosta learned as — pause to scoff like Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock — a B.A. student in Mass Communication at James Madison University.

And liberal Twitter erupted. It’s true, some admitted, that the poem by Emma Lazarus was not part of the original Statue of Liberty. (It’s a plaque that was put up later.) That its embrace of mass immigration had nothing whatsoever to do with the statue’s meaning. But it’s wrong for Miller to know that. You see, some said, that fact is a “favorite talking point” of the “Alt-Right” — whatever that means in this context, since nothing has ever shown that Miller has racialist views.

So while it is a fact, it’s a bad fact. The kind you’re not supposed to know. It’s up there with the suicide rates of post-op transgenders, the body parts trafficking of Planned Parenthood, the promiscuity of male homosexuals, and other occasions of Crimethink.

We just don’t need a million or so mostly unskilled workers every year. We don’t know what to do with them. There aren’t entry level jobs attractive enough to lure the urban poor away from crime or welfare.

Instead of that bad fact, the media would like to offer you some wholesome, thoroughly sanitized emotions. The aw-shucks you feel when you read that lovely poem by Emma Lazarus. The wistful sense of gratitude you experience when you think of your immigrant ancestors. You flip through those sepia photos of them, and wonder what it was like to go through life that color, in a world of black and white.

Living in Black and White

I kid, but not entirely. The world we inhabit is so radically different from that of our grandparents, it’s hard to imagine that they actually lived in color. Likewise our country has changed in crucial ways. But much of the rest of the world has stayed the same — and that’s the source of our problem with immigration.

When my distant Irish ancestors on my mother’s side left Cork, they were fleeing a hell on earth: a moonscape of dead potato plants littered with corpses, some of their mouths green from gnawing on grass for nourishment. They came in “coffin ships” to a New York City with no public welfare system, and only volunteer firefighters — who were corrupt, violent, and Irish. In fact, that describes the city, by then. William Stern of City Journal paints a lurid picture of the impact of Irish immigration on New York.

People came half-starved, illiterate, addicted to alcohol or accustomed to prostitution. The government didn’t help them. It couldn’t. They sank or swam, thrived or died.  Only the Catholic church and its institutions offered material help — at the price of moral uplift. If a young girl stayed chaste, nuns would find her a job as a maid. If a young man stayed sober, some priest would call his cousin and find him a job as a fireman. Those who strayed … were on their own. Many thousands sailed back home.

Tough Work in Hard Times

Indeed, Darwinian conditions continued among some families, namely those where “drink” was an issue. My mother’s mom gave birth eleven times (at home). Only five of them lived past age three. My grandfather was an alcoholic and, alas, a taxi driver. Not the best job/lifestyle balance, I know. But as I said, these were tougher times.

My father’s dad fled the war-torn Habsburg Empire in 1916. He hopped on a U.S. Merchant Marine ship during World War I, and offered to serve on vessels that were hunted by German U-boats. He came to Manhattan and worked the rest of his life shoveling coal into an engine on a tugboat. He could never hope to be captain, because his English was never that good. His job, today, would be illegal — it’s too unhealthy.

My dad served in World War II but scorned the G.I. Bill, seeking out at his father’s suggestion one of the only jobs that had never dried up in the Great Depression: the postal service. So dad carried mail on his back for 37 years (no carts back then). And his son got to go to Yale. When my dad went on to work as a doorman in a fancy Park Avenue building, some of my classmates actually lived there. “My dad hauls your luggage,” I liked to point out to those guilt-harried liberals. But I just thought it was cool.

We can’t live out the lovely words that Emma Lazarus wrote. They don’t apply here anymore.

That’s America, folks. Our parents were sepia or black and white. But we get to live in color. Or so we see it.

We’re Now a Middle Aged Country

But living in color, if you will, changes a lot things. Now we have workplace safety laws and minimum wages, and unions and disparate-impact class action discrimination lawsuits. And lavish welfare programs that enfold vast percentages of the population. We outsource much of our grunt work to other countries, where sepia-tinted citizens still live in black-and-white.

So we just don’t need a million or so mostly unskilled workers every year. We don’t know what to do with them. There aren’t entry level jobs attractive enough to lure the urban poor away from crime or welfare. We don’t know how to assimilate people, since we’re now ashamed of our culture. We can’t give honest answers to problems like sharia. (The only honest answer, actually, is directions to the nearest international airport.)

And so we can’t live out the lovely words that Emma Lazarus wrote. They don’t apply here anymore. We’re a grown-up, full-color country.

We’re a Role Model, Not a Destination

But much of the rest of the world still lives in the dreary shades of poverty and want. They lack the rule of law, or property rights, or decent systems of government, or cultures of entrepreneurship that transformed lands like South Korea and Hong Kong. They produce, every year, millions of unskilled and restless citizens who would like to come to America. Or for that matter, Ireland or Croatia — where my folks came from.  

But grown-up, developed, full color countries don’t need them. America used to, but now it doesn’t. That’s sad but true. If we take too many of them, we will share their homelands’ fate: bankruptcy and chaos. (Especially since so many low-skill immigrants vote for Democrats, whose platform boils down to those two words — see California.)

What we can offer the poor of the world is our good will, our trade, our prayers, and our example. We can be a light unto the nations. And that’s what the vast green statue in New York Harbor was supposed to mean in the first place.

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