Is It Time to Turn Around the Gaze of The Statue of Liberty?


For about 130 years, the Statue of Liberty has gazed at the wide expanse of water with a message of hope & liberation: 

  • “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-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Statue vs NYC skyline

This week we wondered whether Lady Liberty is now gazing in the wrong direction, whether the Lady should turn around to direct her torch towards another set of shores, towards today’s masses who are tempest-tossed and yearning for freedom from their misery.

Who are these masses and what tempest has tossed them into a misery of tired poverty that has them feeling like the refuse of their own homeland?  

They are the grandchildren of the Americans who built America with the proud dignity of their hard labor. They have been tossed into irrelevance & poverty by the tempest of globalized trade that has shut down the industries they built and decimated the jobs they had in those industries. What happens to such people & their communities?

  • “the folks who live in these areas, I think, are beset by a really strong sense of social crisis; stagnant upward mobility & a certain pessimism; rising family breakdown rates, rising mortality rates, rising heroin epidemic; “

Their “real bitterness” comes from their expectations “that their children & grandchildren would have the American dream and would live much better lives“. Instead, they “have found that, at the end of the day, the poverty that was the family tradition seems to be happening all over again“. 

What “teeming shore” should Lady Liberty gaze at to find these “tired, poor masses”? The shores of the Great Lakes of America – beginning from the shore of Lake Ontario in upstate New York, across the shore of Lake Erie in Pennsylvania & Ohio to those trapped in hollowed out Michigan between the shores of Lake Huron & Lake Michigan and then across to Wisconsin.

Great Lakes - small - use

Lady Liberty should not merely gaze at the shores of these great lakes but look a bit inland to West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois & Iowa.

These may be the hollowed out centers of victims of globalized trade but the tragedy is more widespread.  

  • The “White working class is relatively culturally homogeneous” and whether “in rural New York or in Alabama, you are going to find people who think broadly the same about a whole range of issues“.  

The quotes above are the words of J.D. Vance, the author of Hillbilly Elegy and a proud scion of this class. He was welcomed into the hallowed halls of TV networks because of the importance of this class in this year’s presidential election and also because Mr. Vance is now acceptable to the elite TV anchors because he is a Yale Law School graduate and the author of a NYT best seller. 

Of the TV anchors we heard, Chris Mathews of MSNBC seemed most at ease in speaking with Mr. Vance

  • Some of the things you write about remind me of South Boston or South Philly; Irish & Italian places there or my relatives, some of them; total neighborhood thing; doesn’t seem alien to me” 

Chris Mathews also understood the importance of honor that J.D. Vance referred to: 

  • One of the thing that occurs to me is that if you grow up poor and you don’t have much going for you, your honor is one of the few things you have, right? So you are willing to protect it at all costs

In stark contrast, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria couldn’t seem to understand what Vance was saying to him, especially about their instant reactions:

  • “if someone disagrees with you …. you are criticizing me; that’s a personal affront” 

Look at the next question Zakaria asked Vance:

  • … these cultural norms & behaviors, these social pathologies of the Scots-Irish are at the heart of the problem? Do you think there could be a kind of government fix or market fix? Or you feel like this is a deep cultural problem?

We couldn’t believe what we were hearing. To describe the “cultural norms & behaviors of the Scots-Irish” as “social pathologies“? This is the same Fareed Zakaria who lectures to the American people about how Muslims feel. Has Zakaria ever described the “cultural norms & behaviors” of Sunni Muslims as their “social pathologies“? Has he ever asked a Muslim guest whether there is a “kind of government fix or market fix” for Muslim “cultural norms & behaviors“? Haven’t we seen many Muslims react to criticism by taking them as “personal & religious affronts“? 

Unfortunately America’s inner cities are full of “cultural norms & behaviors” of unemployed African-American youth born perhaps out of a lack of jobs & upward mobility.  We have never heard Zakaria describe the behaviors of young African Americans as their “social pathologies“. We don’t believe Zakaria will ever have the guts to ask whether there is a “kind of government fix or market fix” for the “deep cultural problem” of African-Americans.  He knows that Jeff Zucker & Jeff Bewkes would not tolerate that even for a nanosecond. 

There was a time when White anchors would routinely cast aspersions on “social pathologies” of minorities and some still do. But today is a different time in a different America in which a Muslim immigrant from Asia can use his TV show to globally broadcast such a contemptuous & smugly arrogant aspersion on the grandchildren of the founder-builders of America while justifying the same behavior of his own ethnic & religious kin.

Let us be clear. We don’t think Fareed Zakaria is a racist or a even a bad guy. He seems like a good & decent man. But he does seems to be a man without any real deep roots. He is the perfect embodiment of today’s rootless culture-less globalized elite to whom their own false intellectual pretenses have become their own defining culture. 

We owe our idea of turning Lady Liberty’s gaze towards America’s Great Lakes & Appalachian regions to our instantaneous reaction to Zakaria’s condescending use of the term “social pathologies” to describe the Scots-Irish. Zakaria showed us why America seems to be in another civil rights movement – a movement to regain the civil rights of the American working class from the Fareed Zakaria type elite globalized intellectuals who have usurped power in America. This is why the “America First” commitment of Donald Trump stirs such loyalty among the new downtrodden in America.

The Zakaria-like Republicans in the Republican Party should hear the final question and answer between Trish Regan of Fox and J.D. Vance:

  • Regan – Do you think the Republican Party, as a result of Donald Trump and the success he has had with these working class Americans, has forever changed?
  • Vance – I hope that it has. I don’t want the Republican Party to go back to being so disconnected from its base but … if Trump doesn’t win, the party has to figure something out about these voters & about how to appeal to them or they are going to suffer.

 We think Mr. Vance is understating the case. We think the Republican voters have rejected the corporate & country-club Republican party forever. 


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