In the small minds of right-wing radicals and white supremacists like Senior White House Policy Advisor Stephen Miller, all that isn’t “original” is degraded; the United States was perfect at her inception, and it’s been all downhill from there.
Such was the implication when Miller was asked whether his English-speaking-only immigration proposal wasn’t a tad un-American, what with our national refrain about poor huddled masses yearning to breathe free and all that. Here was Miller’s reply:
I don’t want to get off into a whole thing about history here, but the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of liberty enlightening the world; it’s a symbol of American liberty lighting the world. The poem that you’re referring to that was added later and is not part of the original Statue of Liberty.
Right — the poem (which white nationalists regard as the handiwork of a woman “who tried to destroy the US”) — is of no real value owing to the well-known principle that nothing is sacrosanct if it was added later.
In a great piece that parodies White House press briefings generally, and the Miller debacle in particular, Alexandra Petri wrote, only half jokingly,
[CNN Reporter] Jim Acosta (pointedly wrapping himself in a flag and releasing several eagles from his vest pockets): STEPHEN, IS THIS WHERE WE ARE AS A COUNTRY? WHAT ABOUT LIFTING A LAMP BESIDE THE GOLDEN DOOR? WHAT ABOUT THE HUDDLED MASSES YEARNING TO BREATHE FREE? Is requiring immigrants to speak English and possess advanced skills — is this what the Statue of Liberty means?
Miller: Well, actually the poem was added to the statue LATER. Really the statue doesn’t have to mean that immigrants are welcome. You know who carries torches usually? Angry mobs. Maybe she’s saying GO BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM YOU JOB THIEF, ever think about that? I mean who among us can really know what a statue means. I don’t know what any statue means. You can’t pay any attention to things that were added later, be those things poems or so-called constitutional amendments.
“Or so-called constitutional amendments.” Petri is onto something here. It’s no wonder that the Trump administration so abhors the equality principle enshrined in the United States Constitution. It is contained after all, in the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Stephen Millers of the world no doubt see the Equal Protection Clause, since it was added later (in 1868), as nothing but a bastardization of the original document — the one that counts any enslaved human being as three-fifths of a person.
It makes sense now, in light of this administration’s model for analyzing the utility of historical precedents, that Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions The Third should spend all his time protecting white people from the threat of diversity in higher education; and that Trump’s immigration jackboots should be so eager to toss so many brown-skinned people back into foreign cauldrons of poverty and oppression; and that Trump himself is so committed to tweeting “The Other” into ignominy.
Of what use is a guarantee of equality that, as eloquent as the liberty poem composed by Emma Lazarus, shares the same infirmity: it was added later.