We are a nation of immigrants and descendants of immigrants.
Today, on the 4th of July, the passionate words of the poem below express the heart of a woman who grew up on a “far-flung” island of Scotland and immigrated to America as an adult, with her husband and young family. Author and poet, Alice Scott-Ferguson, writes:
“In a land of deep class divides, my parents were not from the nobility, elite or formally educated. They were people of the land and sea in the farthest reaches of the United Kingdom, the Shetland Islands, where the sun never sets in summer and the aurora borealis dances in the long, dark winter skies.”*
Many of my ancestors also came from Scotland (and Ireland)—but way back during Colonial times of the 1600s. They crossed the Atlantic to the New World for economic opportunity (survival?) and for religious and personal liberty. They settled in and around Virginia and Kentucky, and each generation moved steadily across the expanding frontier, seeking new beginnings and opportunities, until they reached the Pacific Ocean. And now some of us have moved back toward the east. My ancestors include farmers, preachers, teachers, homesteaders, soldiers, and transient laborers. Many generations of blood, sweat, and tears have soaked into this land from shore to shore.
We are America. “This Land is My Land …” we have sung with gusto. Does our subjectivity make it hard—even impossible—for us to take an objective look at our country, our land, our nation? Have we become full of “hubris,” as Alice has penned (below)?
I think the voices of immigrants, who continue to choose to come to “America the Beautiful” to seek life and opportunity and freedom, are voices we need to hear and heed, if we want to “trade our hubris for humility,” as Alice Scott-Ferguson expresses in this poem:
America the Beautiful*
Pilgrim from a more restricted place
to America, the parent
of my progression
land of my adoption.
Country of limitless opportunity
for me and my progeny,
of a re-birth of soul
into a vibrant whole
not of uniformity
but of unity
in our differences
in our sameness
with the world
though still we hold
that glorious space
Wide and wonderful land
open your arms of welcome
let us love one another
let us not fear one another
let us harness the love
and discover fire again.
Let us trade our hubris for humility,
thee and me.
~Alice Scott Ferguson
*(excerpted from Alice’s forthcoming book of poetry, Pausing in the Passing Places.)
Photo credit: Original Oil Painting by Amy Whitehouse © 2018