On a recent warm summer evening I traveled to New York City by way of the Staten Island Ferry. I parked my car, walked to the vestibule and was surprised to see hundreds of people waiting for the ferry. Soon the John F. Kennedy arrived and we all efficiently walked onboard. There was no time wasted buying tickets; the ferry is free - yet another good argument for democratic socialism.
Onboard the mood of the crowd was festive. People of all ages were looking forward to adventure on their destination, that magic isle of opportunity, Manhattan. What was striking to me was the incredible diversity of the crowd. I saw Asians, African-Americans, Hispanics, and Muslims and heard many languages : Spanish, Italian, Russian, and Chinese. All of us getting along, bonded together on a common journey.
On deck was an Hispanic mother tightly holding a newborn baby. She was talking to her child endlessly and cheerfully, eliciting the most fetching of smiles from her son Roberto. Of course Roberto’s proud father took countless pictures of that precious smile. When Roberto stopped smiling, his mother accosted the passengers with joy, saying “Make Roberto smile and you will too.” Everyone complied with her request and Roberto’s smile was then contagious throughout the crowd.
I smiled too, but then was saddened by the thought of so many mothers who had their Roberto’s snatched from them at our border due to an ugly new misguided immigration policy. The Statue of Liberty appeared and sadly I saw that the inert iron statue had provided neither welcome nor protection to these families now torn asunder.
We disembarked and I found my way to my book cub where we discussed the last novel by John Steinbeck, “Winter of our Discontent.” It is a so relevant tale about moral corruption in American society. A white descendant of Pilgrim fathers has come upon hard times, losing wealth and status, now working in a grocery store owned by an Italian immigrant. Ethan is a good family man, but the quest to restore his family’s stature leads him to moral decay. He calls immigration officials to deport his Italian boss. He plots to gain the inheritance of his childhood friend, causing his friend’s death. Yet as Ethan slides into a moral abyss, the reader somehow is sympathetic to his schemes and wishes him to succeed. For one part of the historic American Dream is success at all costs: the lure of power, money, and celebrity inevitably trumps morality. Yet Steinbeck does offer some hope at the end, a possible redemption through the light of love.
I returned to the bottom of Manhattan for the ferry ride home. It was dark. The Statue of Liberty was alone in darkness, yet her lamp was still shining ever so dimly. I realized it was not the fault of the statue for not protecting the many Roberto’s. It was our fault, for electing leaders making false promises about a return to glory days at the expense of our morality and humanity. Steinbeck’s words rang truer on the dark deck: “It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.”
Let’s not let the light of Lady Liberty be extinguished. Let’s make our country take a journey forward to a world filled with the energy, talent and diversity of many. This was always the true promise of America, the promise that brought many of our ancestors here. Vote on November 6 to turn the direction of America away from moral darkness and back towards the light of Lady Liberty.
- Submitted by Steve Cickay, Newtown