Monday, June 26, 2006

Memorializing Narrow Minds

On Monday, the PA House was considering a concurrent resolution on immigration. To be precise: "Memorializing the President of the United States and the United States Congress to secure all borders of this nation to protect American citizens from the dangers of unlawful invasion and illegal immigration" (House resolution #799). Glad to know our lawmakers are concerned about protecting us not only from unholy marriages, but from unlawful invasion.

What really struck me about this resolution, though (being a little bit of a word junky) was the use of the term "memorializing." For me, it instantly conjured up a picture of folks in black garb standing around saying solemn and significant things. Made me want to ask, "Who died?" And then I got out the OED (that is, the Oxford English Dictionary, of course) and looked it up. Buried (pardon the pun) deep in the definition of the word "memorial" was this: "7. A statement of facts forming the basis of or expressed in the form of a petition or remonstrance to a person in authority, a government, etc." (OED, p.1767).

While the above definition allows me to make more sense of the House's proposed resolution, it's limiting to the imagination. I prefer to muse over what we're memorializing in our state and our country with such a resolution - in this instance, applying the first definition of the word, which is: "To preserve the memory of; commemorate" (OED, p.1768). Writing such a resolution at the state level - and encouraging protectionist and enforcement-based policies at the national level - will make our laws memorials to a time of narrow-mindedness. A time when we couldn't see how immigrant "invasions" are spurred on by a global economic system that powerful countries largely control. A time when the drive for security trumped both compassion and broad analysis of our global realities to the detriment of citizens and newcomers alike.

The Statue of Liberty - a memorial of the U.S. fight for independence - holds a poem about immigrants - "your tired, your poor, your tempest-tossed." I don't need to trifle with anyone's intelligence here. But where is this sentiment memorialized in our current laws? Lazarus's poem reminds us of and inspires us to our better selves - as any decent memorial ought to do. This resolution, on the other hand, doesn't do us justice.

Jess in Philadelphia
(with thanks to J.Rat for creative input)


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