Remember Rome? How it threw off the shackles of monarchical rule? How it established a republican form of government? Remember the magnificent orderliness of its legal structure and of its legions?
Of course you do.
But, do you remember how diverse it was? Remember how the city of Rome itself was once a pathetic little town where smugglers and pirates would gather? How it allowed the peoples it conquered to continue in their traditions so long as they paid taxes? Remember how becoming a citizen was a major point of pride for a Roman subject?
An incredible number of parallels are drawn between the United States and Rome – in both its Republican and Imperial forms. Here’s another: exclusionary immigration policies.
Time for a tiny bit of history. The Huns – the horseborne nomads of Central Asia – raged all throughout Eurasia and eventually made their way to Eastern Europe. The Visigoths and the Vandals who lived in Eastern Europe at the time were horrified by the cruelty of the Huns. Naturally, they ran. They ran right into the Roman Empire, but the people in the Roman Empire did not want “barbarians” living within their borders, so they forcibly tried to remove them.
The Visigoths and the Vandals then proceeded to destroy the Roman Empire.
This is basically what is happening with the current immigration issues in the United States. To be clear: Rome is the United States, the Visigoths and the Vandals are immigrants refugees, the Huns are push factors – horrendous violence, poverty, etc. – and barbarians is equivalent to illegals.
The destruction, however, is of another sort. Rather than the fiery pillaging of villages and murderous ransacking of cities, the current destruction of the United States is characterized by a pronounced lack of legal infrastructure regarding paths to citizenships and a gradual decay and overburdening of the social institutions necessary for upward social mobility.
Partisan rhetoric flies from both sides, and usually I try to avoid it, but in this instance the Democrats are correct: granting citizenship and amnesty is far more important than enforcing deportation.
The United States has a long history of nativism and xenophobia dating back to Chinese Exclusion and ethnic quotas. Yet, whether they were slaves from Africa, industrial workers from Europe, farmhands and ranchers from Latin America, or miners and railroad workers from East Asia, immigrants built this nation.
It was a diverse cast of ethnicities that built this nation – not the Rockefellers or the Carnegies, but the nameless masses that labored under unspeakable conditions so that their children could have a chance at a better life. They have done so and will continue to do so because the idea of freedom is that powerful.
Issues surrounding mass immigration – crime, drug trafficking, and welfare – are exasperated more by our social policies than by immigrants themselves, and are not reasons to forego the benefits of immigration or to ignore the promises inherent in our national spirit.
Ours is a spirit of inclusion, of self-determination, and of opportunity realized through freedom.
It is a spirit that should echo loudly within each of us, drowning out the cries of “illegal aliens” and other thinly veiled xenophobic slurs. It is a spirit that should always be reaffirming within each of us the true beauty of what America represents.
We are the new Rome, and we carry with us many of the traditions of Antiquity. Often parallels are drawn. Here’s an old one – not mine, but Emma Lazarus’s:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Lazarus, Emma. “EMMA LAZARUS; FAMOUS POEM :”THE NEW COLOSSUS”.” EMMA LAZARUS; FAMOUS POEM :”THE NEW COLOSSUS”. Liberty Science Center, n.d. Web. 15 July 2014. <http://www.libertystatepark.com/emma.htm>.
Otseog, Nevele. “Immigration Reform Leaders Arrested in Washington DC.” Flickr: Creative Commons. Flickr, n.d. Web. 26 July 2014.