by Lela Biggus ’18
The Statue of Liberty remained open during the brief but dramatic government shutdown over the weekend, shining a light on how far we as a nation have strayed from our founding values.
The monument remained open because the daily cost of running it, around $65,000, is miniscule considering the amount of revenue Lady Liberty rakes in for the city. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo commented, “From our point of view, it’s a good investment.”
The move may have been a good investment, but the irony of keeping Ellis Island operating while our government was shut down is almost too perfect. Our country’s most sacred monument, representing the pure American ideal of acceptance, continued to welcome visitors while Congress displayed its inability to compromise on issues of immigration and border security.
Whether you called it the “Trump Shutdown” or the “Schumer Shutdown,” it ended at noon on Monday with an 81-18 vote in the Senate. Prior to the vote, media outlets were certain neither side would budge on issues central to satisfying the Democratic Party’s electorate and the Republican Party’s president, but a compromise was reached.
While the fuss is pretty much over, we the people should not be too quick to move on and forget. Now is as good a time as any to pause and take a good long look in the mirror.
A big part of why this shutdown happened in the first place is the character of President Trump as a leader. Here we have a president too easily swayed by those around him to the point that he seems to agree to pass the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program one moment, and when dissuaded by his advisors, changes his mind the next.
He has a disorganized agenda, confused Republican leaders surrounding him who are constantly on damage control, and absolutely no backbone. However, a spineless, voiceless Trump may be for the best. The “shithole” comment heard around the world would certainly suggest it.
It is because of this ineptitude and pervasive disorganization that a compromise on DACA for Democrats and tighter border security for Republicans could not be reached in time to prevent the shutdown, but Trump alone cannot be blamed.
It is the injection of petty politics into what should be serious decision-making that makes a mockery of our governing body. Last week we heard intellectuals, journalists, and political analysts seriously debate whether or not the president would be satisfied with funding for any physical structure resembling a border wall, as long as he could claim that his campaign promise had been fulfilled.
This is pure absurdity and, tragically, the fate of potential immigrants, asylum seekers, and DACA recipients hangs in the balance.
We are supposed to be the “melting pot,” the land of the free where the “huddled masses” may congregate to find themselves welcomed and at home. However, with Trump’s attitude toward immigration, the U.S. is not what it claims to be.
It is not as though the values of democracy and freedom were perfect under Obama and now suddenly doomed under Trump. The ideals of liberty, citizenship, and even democracy have been flawed as long as the United States of America has existed. Nonetheless, these are the values that we tote, that we are most proud of. The fight for these values is in itself the ideal towards which we strive.
Ellis Island remaining open this weekend was an omen. The universe is screaming at us to embrace our country’s multicultural identity, while simultaneously reassuring us that no matter how ridiculous things are right now, reason, love, and tolerance might just win out in the end.