America was built on dreams. We have a Dream where other countries have histories, state churches and unifying national identities.
Some other day, I’ll talk about the people who’ve gotten lost searching for that Dream, and the ones that have fallen into the American Nightmare. Some other day I’ll talk about how we’ve fallen short of that Dream again and again. But not today. Today is the day to honor the Dream itself, that bright shining hope that might still be our greatest contribution to the world.
And the best way I can think of to honor the Dream is to honor those who believed in it most deeply and lived it most truly. Those who crossed oceans and borders, who faced hardship and danger for that Dream. The people who built this country: the immigrants.
When I was young, this was the narrative I believed about immigration:
Full orchestra playing. Bright, epic, grand. Of course everyone’s coming to America, and it’s an undilutedly joyous thing, because they’re coming to America! And we’ll welcome them in wholeheartedly because we’re America!
As I got older, I learned that it wasn’t that easy. I learned about the hardship, and the bittersweet that came with even the happiest success story:
(Special bonus version of “Isle of Hope” below…less epic, but sweeter)
Then, a few years ago, I found this. And I think it’s the closest to the truth I’ve found yet. The other songs talk about the light the newcomers followed. This is about the fire they walked through.
A bit dark and angry, I suppose, but on today of all days, it’s good to remember that a Dream like America’s is built from fire and steel…and it’s good to remember who built it.