America’s Sin

A friend’s comment on the election sent me remembering a poem I wrote years ago that is, perhaps, not nearly as true today as it was then.

America’s Sin

Of all the innumerable sins
committed by nations and states,
one is America’s alone. Only she
drew millions to her gates,
calling to strangers across the sea,
calling to them: “Here I am! I’m yours!
Come to me, and I will make you mine.”

They came, and true she offered
them the bread and the wine;
She gave them a tongue
who had never had a voice;
left them free to make their lives,
who had never had a choice.
She schooled their children, offering
new heroes and new dreams for old,
encouraging them to forget any other;
binding them hand and foot with gratitude
and love for this their new mother.

But then — and how often she has done it,
God and history lament — when these,
her newest children asked to be loved
along with their Johnny-come-earlier kin,
America found fault with the newcomers’
background, or language or skin.
She put down their hopes, denied their claim,
found reasons to distinguish one from one.
Although these new children offered their love
to her as freely as ever had the old,
none was treated as a dear, beloved son;
to them she sent her love but grudgingly, and cold.

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