When I was picked as one of Ten Outstanding Young South Dakotans, I was given an award and had to answer a questionnaire. One of the things we had to answer on this questionnaire was who our hero was and why; it would then be read to the audience as were getting our award. The copy reader at the awards ceremony flubbed mine and then completely skipped over it. I was rather disappointed by this, because my hero and what I said about her was important. So I’m going to tell all of you!
My hero is the Statue of Liberty. I have loved her since I can remember. I learned about her early, as all American children do, through Sesame Street and school. I’m a really sensitive person so what I learned about her just hit my heart and she became my hero.
For any Canadians or other readers who don’t know, the Statue of Liberty is a statue of a woman in a green robe holding up a torch, with a crown on her head and a tablet in her hand. The tablet she holds is the Declaration of Independence, her torch represents enlightenment and the seven spikes on her crown represent the seven seas; across which liberty should be spread. She was originally given to the United States by France as a token of friendship in 1886. But the majority of people know her as Lady Liberty. She represented the gateway to freedom in the 1800’s for immigrants coming over on the ships to New York, who were seeking better lives for their families and their children. She bears an inscription that was a poem written by Emma Lazarus, that reads:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddles masses, yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed, I lift my lamp beside the Golden door.”
Even now, it brings me to tears. Those words were what spoke to my heart, what cemented this 151 foot tall woman into my heart and as my hero. I was young when I learned of her, not even aware of my Lakota heritage and the ugly skeletons it had in its closet. I think this woman is what made the difference for me, because to me she is what America is about. She made me proud to be American, proud to know we were thoughtful enough to others to put this sentinel at our “gates” – not to turn them away, but to welcome them. That we Americans were not only big enough to care for ourselves, but to care for and welcome others who needed freedom, a job, a helping hand, a spot of respite. To me that is what America represented.
When I was 17, my adoptive family took a trip to New York, and we got to see her. I was in tears, and so overcome with emotion. No one asked me about it; they probably figured it was a weird teenage thing. Even if they had asked, I would not have been able to put it into words. I was so thrilled to see my hero up close. She’s really tall!
I was looking around Ellis Island, and imagining how it looked to immigrants who were coming to our “golden shores.” And I was filled with pride, and love. I’d have stood there, saying, “Welcome to America!” I’d have handed out hugs and directions.
Then, I grew up and learned the horrific history between America and the Indigenous tribes and there are moments that piss me off beyond seeing straight. But this will always be My True America, our potential as a nation. Everyone deserves love, a chance and room to grow.
Ironic that I’m writing about this when I’m so very angry at America right now for all the bullshit they are trying to pull with immigration. Ironic isn’t it? Hello pot, you’re a kettle! But I think some people get so caught up in their own ridiculousness that they all forget where they came from, how they got their start, and that if we would all help each other, there really is room for everyone. In this day and age, it’s easy to be pissed off, to think we have to hoard things, to think “Mine, mine, mine!”. But if we just stop for a minute, and remember who we are, where we came from, and to give people a break.
Call me naïve, call me soft-hearted, call me an idealist.
I just say I’m human, and you can never have too much love. (or hugs)
Statue of Liberty – Public Domain From Wikipedia