Today, when we turn on the television or look at our cell phones, a wave of negative messages regarding immigration in this, our country, washes over us. Our country, because even though some say otherwise, the United States of America was made by people who were fleeing oppression, poverty, and violence in search of a place to have a home and raise a family.
The Quakers escaped from religious oppression in England. The Irish fled absolute misery and hunger that took the lives of thousands in their homeland. The Italians came looking for greater fortune and brought a very rich culture. Jews from many countries came in flight from the Nazi nightmare of the 30s and 40s. Mexicans have been on this land since before the United States existed. So when someone says that what is written on the Statue of Liberty does not represent the immigrant soul of our country, they are more than mistaken. Not only are they mistaken, but they normalize the hate of extreme right groups who deny the history of America. And the lies do not stop at our immigrant nature. They continue by trying to hide the historical reality of the American Civil War.
The American Civil War was not simply a movement where the South sought independence from the North. No, the South was inhabited by a group of people who wanted to continue treating human beings as though they were goods to be consumed, and which maintained their economic and social engine. To continue the treatment of men, women, and children as slaves. Let us accept, then, that the South was born of an act of fratricide to continue slavery, and its symbols represent that aggression. Today the South, the rebellion, and their monuments are nothing more than attempts—successful until now—to maintain the status quo that supposedly was destroyed by that war. Their statues and flags are surreptitious mechanisms to perpetuate that oppression.
World War II and the end of Apartheid were historic moments in which the American soul showed the best of itself. Nazi Germany was literally destroyed by American bombardment. The generals and elites of the Nazi regime were taken to trial, imprisoned, and executed by the United States and its allies. So there is nothing more antithetical to what the United States represents than the ideology of racial superiority as advanced by Hitler and his henchmen. And let’s not even talk about Apartheid. Who pressured the unjust South African regime with more vehemence and force during the 80s and 90s than the United States of America? Ronald Reagan, paragon of the Republican Party, would be ashamed to see the normalization of the symbols of hate that the administration of Donald Trump accepts today. Reagan would be infuriated to hear a senior advisor say that the Statue of Liberty does not represent the immigrant spirit. That is why today, when marginal groups use the Nazi cross or the Rhodesian flag—a symbol of Apartheid—to represent themselves and their ideas, we cannot think for one single second that these are normal or part of the spirit of the United States.
So when they talk to us about history, let us remember those who built this nation, who said no to slavery and rejected with fire and blood the idea that one race is superior to another. Let us understand that it was immigrants who adopted this nation as their own, who stood shoulder to shoulder in those battles. Let us remember that when Trump dirties the majesty of the executive branch of this great nation, it was the descendants of those immigrants who gave their lives so that we might have the opportunity to live in this, our country, and it is our responsibility to follow their example.