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The Rued Colossus

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 incapable, your needy,
And your hostile masses yearning to…

Give me your hustlers, your thieves,
And your welfare cheats yearning to…

Give me your charlatans, your grifters,
And your scam artists yearning to…

Give me your spies, your cartel warlords,
And your lowbrow tastemakers yearning to…

Give me your e coli vectors, your ugly fat women,
And your brawndo-chugging submentals yearning to…

*record scratch*

“Dad?”

Dad breathes through hospital mask, set against slate gray post-nuclear sky.

“Yes, son?”

“I read this poem called The New Colossus. Was America really like that, back then?”

“Like what?”

“You know, not really a country. With no history. Like a homeless shelter…for the world.”

“A long time ago, before the troubles, America was a country. A real country. But then lots of people read that poem you’re reading — The New Colossus — and believed in it. But it was a lie, and the people were fooled.”

“Was America ever great?”

“Yes, she was. The greatest. For a time.”

“What happened?”

“Pride. Hubris. Americans let it go to their heads. They thought their Constitution was magic paper anyone could read and understand. So they let everyone in, to live under the rules and ways declared in that Constitution. To make a heaven on earth.”

“And?”

“And the new people ignored it.” Dad looks wistfully at the horizon. “It all ended so fast.”

“The troubles?”

“America. The country of your great-grandparents. The troubles went on for a long time. My parents would tell me the wars weren’t noble. No one fought for America; they fought for turf.”

“The bombs…”

“Yes. Fearsome. Millions died. If all the bombs had been used, we would not be standing here today.”

“Will we make the same mistake in our new country?”

“Only if your history is taken from you.”

The boy is defiant. “I won’t let that happen!”

“Maybe you can rewrite that poem you read, for future generations. But this time, make it truthful.”

…yearning to colonize America,
The wretched invaders of primitives born.
Send these, the hordes, ungrateful, to me,
I give my home to foes from distant shores!”

***

Caudill adds,

This kind of stuff always reminds me of the villain at the end of a heroic tale trying to convince the hero that he has already lost and should not bother trying to stop his fate. This is right before he lops off the devil’s head with a claymore, shoots him with a laser blaster or fills him full of lead from a giant machine gun.

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