- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 2, 2015


Have you paid attention to how quickly life in America is changing?

There are an estimated 559 million Spanish-speakers in the world — and surprise, surprise — more of them live in the United States than anywhere else except Mexico. The majority of U.S. Spanish-speakers live in New Mexico (No. 1, with 47 percent), and Texas, California and Arizona.

Are we going to continue cherishing the symbolism of Liberty Island and Ellis Island? Or kiss them to revolutionary winds, too?

“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-tost to me,

“I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Those words by native New Yorker Emma Lazarus are etched in bronze on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, an iconic symbol Americans are far more interested in than the pseudo-rainbow flag of the gay rights movement.

Liberty has an utterly profound definition, and the revolutionary winds shaking the very foundation of this nation prove it needs our full time and attention.

Where are we heading and who will be there when we arrive? This is kind of personal for me.

Growing up, I was no fan of science fiction TV and films. Blacks never seemed to make it to Mars, land on the moon or be included in whatever “future” had had in mind. And for that matter, neither “The Jetsons” nor “The Flintstones” was diverse. By the time the much-ballyhooed “Avatar” hit the screen, there was diversity, but James Cameron’s idea of brothers and sisters from elsewhere in our solar system is the blue-skinned Na’vi. Three “Avatar” sequels are in the works, people, with Zoe Saldana reprising her role in voicing Neytiri (yawn).

I am looking forward to “Star Trek Beyond,” however. In the film, slated to be released in 2016, Miss Saldana will play Uhura, the highest-ranking black on the USS Enterprise.

Wyoming and Idaho, like so much of America, are steeped in Native American history (and I mean that in the broadest of contexts). Interestingly, though, there is a different cultural issue on those two states’ radar screens. In a word: refugees.

There’s bickering in Idaho over concerns that there could be an influx of Syrian refugees settling this fall in south-central Idaho, home to Twin Falls and acres upon acres of national forestland. The chief concerns are centered on the College of Southern Idaho’s Refugee Center, which reportedly has resettled an estimated 5,000 people since the 1980s. Critics are concerned that the community college, which has outreach programs in Boise and other communities, could become overwhelmed with radicalized Muslims.

But get this: The Obama administration says no worries — incoming refugees will undergo federal background checks.

Meanwhile, back at the ranches and capital of Wyoming, Gov. Matt Mead is in a tug of war over words. During last year’s election, Mr. Mead said he wanted to discuss a refugee program. His chief opponents said no way. Mr. Mead on Tuesday described the refugees as mostly “secondary refugees,” people who had lived in one state and now want to resettle or be resettled in Wyoming.

Hmm. If I remember correctly what my grade-school teacher Lorraine Whitlock made us memorize, Wyoming and Idaho are next-door neighbors.

Freedom. Independence. Liberty. America has got it all. We salute the U.S. flag, put our hands over our hearts and recite the words to “The Star Bangled Banner”: “O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave / O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

Before major televised sports events, we’ve listened to singers and musicians of all genres give it a go, and we’ve listened to young wannabes, too.

We’ve watched some athletes, humble heads bowed, look as if they are praying for victory, and we’ve witnessed others stand as erect as soldiers and ready to battle as they mouth the words to our national anthem.

We also have seen the flag change and finally come to its full 50-star recognition of these United States. And we’ve seen the flag afire as if it in and of itself is harmful.

That other flag, the Confederate flag? Leave it be. That flag represents where we have been, not where we are going.

Celebrate Independence Day. It is our independence, freedom and liberty that others crave.

They want what Americans have.

Show them, tell them why we celebrate the Fourth of July.

Liberty now, liberty tomorrow, liberty forever.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

• Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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