1. A person of another family, race or nation
2. A foreign-born resident who has not been naturalized and is still a subject or citizen of a foreign country; broadly: a foreign-born citizen
4. Exotic [Merriam Webster's Online Dictionary]
"For weak ye are, outcasts on stranger lands,
And forward talk beseems not strength less hands."
[Aeschylus, The Suppliants --Translated by E.D.A. Morshead]
This line from Aeschylus captures the difficult predicament of being an alien in a foreign land.
The line is delivered by a father, Danaus, to his daughters, whose cousins were attempting to force them to marry. The father and daughters are now at the mercy of the king whose land, Argos, they are living in.
They are fleeing injustice and seeking refuge.
The author of this play, Aeschylus, was a famous playwright from ancient Greece,
and one of the great tragedians.
The Suppliants centers on those fleeing persecution,
and so much from this ancient drama translates into trends in our current American media.
It focuses on this one aspect of immigration, drawing public attention to the immigrants who are refugees.
This could be one of the reasons why many Americans have begun to look at immigrants as supplicants asking for help, rather than people who can contribute to society.
America today is a land comprised almost entirely of immigrants and the near-generational descendants of immigrants.
When did we stop believing in the brave pioneers looking to build the country and create a new life for themselves through hard work and perseverance?
When did they begin to see immigrants only as beggars - as supplicants?
King Pelasgus hesitates to grant Danaus and his daughters refuge because
he fears starting a war. He only relents when his people vote to let the people stay.
Think about this image, this powerful microcosm of modem day democracy and politics set two and a half millennia ago.
This story closely paraIlels 20th century America.
As Danaus repeats to his daughters the Argive people's oath to protect them,
it should be noted that the travelers are referred to as "stranger-guests," a much more polite and welcoming term than the one Danaus himself uses (weak .. . outcasts on stranger lands).
When I searched Yahoo and Google for the definition of aliens, a few words repeatedly came up.
Foreign, exotic, different, outsider, estranged, excluded, not belonging, belonging to another place, another society, another family, another race.
We need the image of people like us to change.
Maybe we need to get rid of the words "alien" and "alienage," and use "foreign-born" or "immigrant." In this book I use "foreign born" rather than "aliens" to refer to immigrants and would-be immigrants.
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