By Tammari L. Ingalls
It was reported on June 4 that a number of prominent Hoosier Republicans spoke at the annual Kosciusko County Lincoln Day Dinner with the keynote address given by Sen. Todd Young.
I found it amusing that early in his speech he declared The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus to be one of his favorite poems.
Then I was embarrassed for him when he said, “This is art, so I’m not exactly sure what Emma Lazarus meant by ‘imprisoned lightning,’” and proceeded to tell those gathered what he thinks those two words mean anyway.
The New Colossus is not a poem of deeper meaning. It is one of historical and simple context that Young fails to grasp. In the year that Ms. Lazarus wrote those words now inscribed at the feet of the Statue of Liberty, the electricity lighting the great lady’s torch was a novelty, and American lore of Benjamin Franklin capturing lightning – imprisoning it on a key in a jar – was still fresh in the minds of people trying to grasp how we had harnessed the power of the electron.
There’s great danger in not recognizing context. And people today are refusing to see a lot of context in how our government is operating at present, especially in terms of history and science. So, it’s ironic that Young chose not only a poem so deeply entrenched in American history, but one written by a woman whom today he would likely call a member of “the radical left.”
Respectfully, Sen. Young is wrong. More often than not, the imagery of poetry is exactly as it is written, with no deeper meaning awaiting his explanation. Here, a light is simply a light – a welcoming beacon of hope.
The only meaning within The New Colossus that matters is also clearly stated in the last five lines:
“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, the tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.’”
And this is the critical part that Todd Young wants us to forget, that his choice of poem calls for us to greet with warmth – Hoosier hospitality, if you will – those immigrants most desperate for the welcome embrace of our new nation. His rhetoric within the same speech, how he’s “fed up with open borders,” clearly indicates that he would rather spurn those self-same huddled masses who arrive at our doorstep seeking asylum from starvation, homelessness, political turmoil, and often, certain death in their homelands. It was in those very conditions that many of my ancestors arrived at these shores, and I’m sure some of yours did too. (Additional context: with current immigration laws in place, our borders are not at all “open.” Young uses that particular buzzword in order to incite your anger and frustration.)
Further in his speech, Young opined on President Biden’s inaugural address and that he hasn’t delivered on his call for unity. We ask you, Senator Young, how does the president unite with half of a legislative body whose leader has stated, “One hundred percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration,” as their singular goal? Where is your attempt to build bridges and meet Biden, your colleagues, and the balance of your constituency halfway?
That’s what Hoosiers are fed up with: The perpetual, obstinate obstructionism from a party more intent on moving farther and farther to the right and desperately maneuvering to maintain control at all cost. What we’re fed up with is a party that cannot come up with policies and compromises that people can support, then resort to authoritarian legislation when ineffective leaders do get voted out of office. (Indiana’s Republicans took notice of recent election results in Georgia and chose to react accordingly.)
Hoosiers are fed up with our Republican delegation to both Congress and General Assembly because they are only interested in listening to a fraction of their constituents – those who agree with them.
We’re fed up with those same Members of Congress descending into the den of indecency in Florida to make nice with a failure.
In fact, we’re fed up with a lot of things. Senator Young would know that if he bothered to read his mail and listen to his phone messages, particularly those that disagree with him. He really doesn’t know what “fed up” is.
Tammari L. Ingalls is the Deputy Chair of Communications for Indiana’s 2nd District Democratic Party. She lives in Wabash.