Today, Zach Weinersmith, the cartoonist behind the popular webcomic site Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, penned a heartbreaking speech about life in America these last few weeks. Entitled “Libertas Shrugs,” Weinersmith relates his own family’s immigration history– a long winding tail punctuated by the tragedy of the Holocaust– to us. He does this to showcase how immigration has made the United States one of the brightest lights in the modern world and how we stand to lose that light under the presidency of Donald Trump.
I am lucky that my ancestor, Szimon Winokur, came here in 1925. I am also lucky that he was white. If he had been Chinese, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923 would have kept him out.
He brought his family here. One of his sons, my grandfather, was a small business owner. His son, my father, received a free education in New York, then went to Caltech. My father was, until his retirement, a doctor in a small town in Texas. He has six children – One is a Christian pastor. One is an executive director at a medical technology company. One is a conservative political philosopher, one is a chief technical officer in silicon valley, and my little sister is a doctor in Louisiana. I’m the one black spot on this record because I write books for a living.
We are all here, all contributing to this country because in 1925, a boat passed Ellis Island and nobody told the ill-clad funny-accented people in it to turn around because they were too poor or not Christian enough, or that they hadn’t been vetted properly. You all know the poetry – give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free. The green lady’s tablet doesn’t say a thing about whether those huddled masses were Chinese or Muslim or Jew or Arab. And, it specifically enjoins us to take those who yearn for freedom. It doesn’t say take a highly educated European or Indian on an H1-B visa. It doesn’t say take a Christian or a rich business owner or a diplomat.
But, look east, and you can see Libertas shrugging. There are weights around her robes, and her torch is flickering in New York Harbor.
Over the weekend, Trump and his administration took executive action to close US borders to immigrants, refuges, and even permanent residents from seven Muslim-majority countries under the guise of national security. The policy was executed haphazardly and has had a human cost, separating people who were visiting family abroad from their loved ones back in the U.S. and denying legal immigrants the rights that we had previously agreed to provide to them.
While federal judges have forced the White House to backpedal and allow greencard holders back into the country, many people remain in legal limbo, caught between federal border protection agencies that have no idea how to handle new policies that were not effectively detailed to them and the “70-year old 7-year old” who created this mess.
Yes, comics are entertainment, but comics are also culture. The stories creators tell and the stories we at The Beat report on are informed by the events unfolding around us every day. It would not only be impossible, but irresponsible to advocate the inclusive ideologies of superheroes while ignoring the villain at our doorstep who threatens to ruin everything our heroes stand for.