This blog introduces you to my special brand of BIKE. I show you how to find your Best self, access your Inner strength, tune in to your Killer instincts, and use your Expressive voice. It's inspiring, spiritual, quirky, and it's all in your head. It's about ATTITUDE, not exercise, though that might be a side benefit.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Inspired by Lady Liberty

After I can't remember how many trips to New York City, I finally managed to squeeze in a visit to see the Statue of Liberty--in the rain.

Despite the cold spring temperatures, and the umbrellas getting in the way of my view, I discovered she's a lovely sight when you first catch glimpse of her on the ferry boat over to Liberty Island. Up close, you can't help but be inspired by her size, her color, her message:

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..."

Emma Lazarus' famous poem, written for Lady Liberty has special meaning to me now, as I contemplate what's happening with immigration here in Arizona where I live.

We don't have a liberty island here, but we've been a land of liberty for thousands of illegal immigrants who, over the years, have crossed the border into Arizona south from Mexico. Some wonder: why don't they just do it right and get the green card and apply for citizenship. The answer to that is simple: it's not that easy. It can take years for a person to earn his citizenship. It costs money, and there are no guarantees. It can be a crap shoot.

If we're to remain a land for the tired, poor and huddled masses yearning to breathe free, I should hope we could find some kind of compromise with this new immigration law that seems to accept racial profiling as a way to punish illegal immigrants, particularly those who sneak in from the south.

But imagine if you were one of these illegals, someone from Mexico, in fact...

Maybe it took you years to save up for the trip north. But it was your dream. You wanted a better life for your family. You wanted your young daughter to go to school. You wanted your wife to have a home with running water. So you saved to make that happen. And you saved again when, after the first time you paid the coyote, he took your money and ran.

This next time, you used a more reliable source to find a reliable coyote (if there is such a thing), and you paid him. Still, in the back of your mind, you could do nothing more than hope and pray he would carry you across the border safely, seeing as you were crowded into the trunk of an old beater car.

You for sure prayed he didn't drop you off in the middle of the Arizona desert, with no food and not enough water to last longer than a day. You heard so many stories about this happening. You could only pray it didn't happen to you--or you would surely die. And you didn't want to leave your family that way. Ay dios mio!

Once you made it over, you hoped you wouldn't get caught and sent back immediately. You hoped, if you did get dropped off in the desert that someone might take pity on you and feed you, give you water at least. You'd heard of people like this. When a child squeezed in next to you began to cry, you thought of your own children. You wondered if they were okay.

It's not a free ride to cross the border into Estados Unidos. It's expensive and dangerous. You never know when your driver might get stopped, and if he does get stopped, will he know what to do. And what if you get mixed up with the drug smugglers? You don't want any part of that. You just want a job, a job that will allow you to save money to send back to your family. You have relatives in Phoenix who will let you live with them. Only if you can get there safely.

But then this new immigration law surfaced, and your family told you not to come right now. It's not safe, they told you.

As it if ever was. And you'd already paid for the trip. You still wanted to give it a try. You had hope...

I grew up in an Arizona border town. Stories like these have changed very little since my high school years. I grew up poor and can understand the desire to live a better life. I do not relate to the yearning for freedom, because, being an American, I've always experienced it. I've known nothing else.

So on my trip to New York, and on that ferry boat ride to see the famous statue that has represented freedom to immigrants from all over the world, I was taken back to the days of my youth when I went to school with suspected illegals. They kept to themselves, or to their own culture. And I went to school with foreign exchange students who were there legally. Neither of them spoke English very well, but to me, no one was any different than the other. We were all there to learn.

And learn I did.

I learned that freedom has different meanings, and I probably take it for granted. For others, it's something to obtain. It's that sense of yearning for something better. It is the ability to stand up for yourself without fear of retribution. It is the right to have a job that pays a decent wage so you can actually feed your family. It is so much more than just a statue on an off-shore island.

Still, I am inspired by Lady Liberty. I choose to believe in what she represents. I choose to think that we can accept all people in this country, because that is the basis of our very existence here in America.

Something does need to be done about immigration. I agree with that. But I am not inspired by the punitive action this law seems to demonstrate. I am inspired by the people out there who understand and will not forget the true meaning behind behind Lady Liberty's message:

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..."

I am inspired by the warmth of those words. I am inspired by the embrace. What about you?


Alexandra Grabbe said...

My dad was an immigrant. He came from Europe on a steamer in 1924. He saw Lady Liberty and was properly impressed. He could not return to his country because there was a revolution. He was a refugee.

My husband is not an immigrant. He's a Swede. He can return to his country if he wants. When we moved here from Europe, we followed the rules to get him into the country. It was definitely NOT easy. Many documents and papers along, I decided the INS is part of the problem. Since we followed the rules, I get irritated at talk of amnesty for illegals. I realize they want a better life, but you have to begin by following the rules of the country.

BIKE LADY said...

You make some good points, Alexandra, especially given your own background. I wish there were room for all. But, alas, there is not. And I don't know what the solutions is, but I do think if I did, mine would come from a more compassionate place than the Arizona law.