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COLUMN: What Lady Liberty ought to be telling America’s new arrivals

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Al Jacobson

 

Several years ago, I was chatting with some friends about my personal concern with the growing population of the United States.

Unlike some people who are also wishing the population of the country was smaller, I am not concerned with whether there is enough food in the country to feed over 300 million people. I have always wondered where we are going to find the jobs for over 200 million adults. 

That is why I suggested that we revamp the Statue of Liberty. Replace the torch with a huge sign that can be read by ships as soon as they come over the horizon heading for New York. 

That sign should say “LOT FULL.”

Well, that is not what this is about. I want her to hold up an entirely different sign. 

She can still welcome the tired, the poor and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. I don’t even mind her welcoming the wretched refuse of their teeming shores. But, I have come to think that perhaps that 111-foot, 125-ton lady should be sending a message to some of our new visitors and residents. 

She could start with something like this:

“I am a woman. In this country I have the same rights as a man. Regardless of your religious beliefs, you will treat me and every other woman in this country equally and with dignity." 

We might want to have her also tell those entering the USA that:

“This county of mine will not tolerate what some of you might call an ‘honor killing.’ This is not some backward country where a father can murder his own daughter and think the law will protect him. We are not like that.” 

And, tell them:

“This country will not tolerate the genital mutilation of any female. Our females are free to be women. If you do not like the way your daughter behaves or you want to physically harm her, know this: you can scold a misbehaving daughter. You can even expel a misbehaving daughter from your home. You have no right to abuse her or destroy her body.”

And: “This country has laws which apply to everyone within our borders. No matter what laws apply to you and your faith, they do not apply to anyone else in the USA. We will not change our laws to please you. We will not change our customs to accommodate you. We will not change our behavior to placate you. We will not change our mode of dress to appease you.” 

Perhaps she should also tell new arrivals:

“This country’s constitution guarantees everyone within its borders certain freedoms. You can enjoy our freedoms just as everyone else does. You cannot, however, expect to deny anyone else their freedoms just because they might do something you don’t like. Whether you like it or not, people can practice any religion within the USA they chose. If you have a dispute with someone else’s religion, that is just too bad. In my country you will be free to practice your believes, but not free to interfere with the beliefs of anyone else. People have the right to speak freely about any subject. And, if someone criticizes your religion, and you don’t like that, you can always go back to whereever you practiced your religion in the past.

“People have the right to write and print whatever they want. If you see something in print you don’t like, frankly, we do not care. You can still go back to where you came from.

People have the right to assemble and petition. They can march and protest. If you do not like what their cause is, you can always return to the place from which you came.”

She can tell immigrants: “People here have the right to dress and behave as they choose without the government or anyone’s religious beliefs interfering. You cannot stop people from being near you or your family just because you do not like their personal preferences.” 

Since 1886, countless people entering New York Harbor looked up at that symbol of hope. Lady Liberty was there telling them that they had arrived in America, and they could be Americans.

Today, people are passing by that statue who hope that America will change to accommodate them. It is about time we let them know that that is not about to happen.

 

Al Jacobson is a Commerce City homeowner. He writes children’s stories.