What Would You Not Do For Money?

If you can keep your integrity when all about you are losing theirs … (riffing on Rudyard Kipling)

In May 2013, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell (The Last Word) devoted his “Rewrite” segment to Keystone Sporting Arms founders Bill McNeal and his son Steve.

KSA manufactures guns for children. (Let that sink in for a moment.) Among the logo rights the company owns is “My First Rifle.”

On April 30, 2013, Caroline Sparks of Kentucky died when her 5-year-old brother accidentally shot her with KSA’s “Crickett”, a .22-caliber youth rifle he’d received the year before, a birthday gift.

[It was] “just one of those crazy accidents,” Gary White, the local coroner, said. “It’s a little rifle for a kid … The little boy’s used to shooting the little gun.”

O’Donnell had a slightly different take. He blasted the McNeals as “greedy death merchants” and labeled a KSA website promo pic of a baby holding a rifle as “legal child pornography.”

He then related a story about his own father turning down an opportunity to invest in a liquor store because “he had seen booze destroy too many lives, and kill too many people.” His father told the young O’Donnell “there are some things you don’t do for money.”maybe yes no keys representing decisions

“I’m guessing [the McNeals] never talked about what they would not do to make money,” O’Donnell said, “because what they decided to do, as a father and son team in a small town in Pennsylvania, was start a company to make guns and sell guns for children.

“You would think one of the McNeals would have had the good sense to say, ‘If we make guns for little kids, someone is going to get killed. Well, if one of them said that, the other one must have said ‘Yeah, but we can get rich,’ and getting rich mattered more to the McNeals than someone getting killed.”

I’ve thought about that story many times in the years since it aired. As money continues to ascend in its power, wiping out all other definitions of what matters in life. As more and more politicians sell themselves to the NRA, the Koch brothers, and big Pharma. As climate change escalates, unchecked, because to take action to save our planet would decrease the multi-billion-dollar profits of fossil fuel magnates.

What would you not do for money?

Over Thanksgiving weekend, I jotted down a few responses to that question.

Things I Would Not Do For Money

1) Murder or injure another person.

2) Take a job as a lobbyist or spokesperson shilling for the fossil fuel or chemical industries, Big Pharma or Wall Street.

I’ve actually had experience with this one. As an English major, there weren’t a ton of companies rushing my college campus to sign me up. The recruitment center, however, did offer me an interview with Dow Chemical. They were looking for a writer and the starting salary was twice what anyone else was paying students of Shakespeare and Faulkner. But I turned down the interview. In fact, I remember being amused by the irony of it all: I’d just been involved in a campus protest against Dow two weeks before.

3) Publicly advocate a position different to my actual beliefs.

4) Take something that doesn’t belong to me.

5) Betray someone. Anyone.

6) Write to the market—what I think will sell—rather than follow my heart.

Unlike numbers 1-5, this is not a moral question. People write for many different reasons. If you have writing chops, it’s perfectly ethical to use those skills to make a living. I’ve written many non-fiction articles for magazines and newspapers. But my novels and short stories have a deeper, different meaning. I revere fiction above all other forms of writing. The best of it informs us, transforms us, gives shape and meaning to human experience. Though I hope to publish my fiction, when it comes to choosing what to write, I take the line of the late anti-Apartheid activist and writer Stephen Biko: I write what I like.

money-making-decisions2As I developed this list, I realized the question of what one would refuse to do for money comes in a multitude of guises. There’s the illegal and immoral, the perfectly legal but morally murky, and the personally repugnant. I became curious how others would answer the question, so I e-mailed a handful of friends to solicit their responses.

Money Can’t Buy Me Trust

Several people echoed Maribeth F., who wrote: “Not certain how to answer this as there are so many things I would NOT do for money.”

She goes on to tell about a time she was asked to lie at work. “I said no, my reputation is the most valuable thing I own. I will not compromise that. People at work knew that they could trust whatever I said. That level of trust got me through really tough times such as taking positions that were not popular, having to lay people off, confront bad behavior, dealing with potential lawsuits, etc. These challenges helped me to find my voice which overall helped me to confront people when I needed to or chose to.”

money-stopwatch-time-to-decide3747724In an interesting twist, it turns out there are some things we might do, but not for pay. As Kathleen D. put it: “I who have told lies on occasion would not lie for money.”

Singer/songwriter Cyndi Lauper said it best: Money changes everything.

Love Trumps Money

Most responders noted they would not violate personal relationships for money. Apropos of the 1993 movie Indecent Proposal, where a rich man offers a young husband $1,000,000 for a night with his wife, several people said no amount of money could induce them to cheat on their spouse. Ed M. said the promise of money wouldn’t persuade him to neglect the people he loves or the things he loves to do. Tom R. said he wouldn’t change his identity for money or cut ties with his friends and family.

Promises of Fame and Fortune

Toni R. reported that she wouldn’t set a forest fire for money. She lives in the South where wildfires have been raging since mid-October, adversely affecting air quality and forcing the evacuation of thousands. While it’s thought that a lightning strike, not arson, was responsible for starting the Rough Ridge fire in Georgia, police suspect arson has played a part in the rapid spread of such fires across drought-ravaged forests in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

money-bureau-of-land-management-wildfire-blm4
Bureau of Land Management

How many arsonists might be involved is unclear at this time. In one case, however, we do know that fame served as a surrogate motive for money. An aspiring weatherman from Kentucky admitted to starting a forest fire to draw people to his selfie videos on Facebook. The 21-year-old was jailed for arson, but not before racking up some 3,000 views on social media. The man said he enjoys the attention.

Arson brings up another facet of the money question: What would you not do for profit? The intentional burning of rain forests in Indonesia and Malaysia to clear land for oil palm plantations releases large quantities of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. Highly injurious to people’s health and the planet, oil palm plantations yield big profits for companies like Colgate-Palmolive and PepsiCo because palm oil is cheap and has a long shelf life.

Respect for Self

Although all the responses I received involve de facto respect for oneself—the unwillingness to violate one’s principles for the purpose of legal or illegal gain—Tom R. addressed the issue directly. “I wouldn’t risk my life [for money] in a stunt—trying to cross Niagara Falls on a tightwire comes to mind … and I wouldn’t undergo unnecessary surgery.” Tom is a retired lawyer turned actor, but I’m guessing he won’t be lining up for Botox injections or a facelift any time soon. He’s not willing to gamble his health or personal safety.

 

What’s In a Name?

The question of what one would not do for money speaks directly to the issue of personal integrity. It acknowledges that some considerations rank higher than money—perhaps many, if my small sample has any validity. It concedes that such a thing as a moral compass may yet exist, and be valued. That integrity brings its own riches, beside which money looks both dirty and cheap.

money-mccarthy-hearingsArthur Miller spoke to integrity in The Crucible, a play in which the Salem witch trials mirror Joe McCarthy’s “witch hunt” for Communists in the 1950s. McCarthy and his House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) didn’t offer people cash to sell out their friends and colleagues, but they threatened their freedom and their jobs.

Like the principled men and women who stood up to HUAC, when John Proctor is asked at the close of The Crucible to betray his neighbors and perjure himself to save his own skin, he refuses. The officials are shocked. They try to convince him that throwing his own life away is a graver sin than informing on his friends, but he’s having none of it. Wringing their hands, they ask why, for God’s sake, does he refuse to sign his name to their trumped-up confession? It’s just a signature.

And he tells them: Because it is my name. Because I cannot have another in my life.

That’s integrity.

[Many thanks to everyone who contributed to this post.]

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In The Face of Hate, Love Is A Powerful Weapon

“If we withdraw into our grief and abandon those most threatened by Trump’s win, history will never forgive us.” (D.D. Guttenplan, “Welcome To The Fight”, The Nation, Nov. 10, 2016)

The truly crap thing about waking up to find yourself in a nation where hatred and fear carried the election is that it’s hard not to hate those whose oxymoronic hearts are fueled by hate. Hatred towards Blacks, Latinx, women, LGBTQ folks, indigenous peoples, Muslims, Jews, intellectuals, climate scientists, and Syrian refugees. My apologies to anyone I inadvertently left out here, but my list makes its point: The road of hate is slippery. You start out hating one group of people, and you wind up hating most of humanity. Your heart grows harder. Your dissatisfactions multiply. The world takes on an ugly face. A mirror perhaps.

I stayed with MSNBC on election night through all the hours as optimism turned to cautious hope, as hope grasped at every possible straw, as the straws disappeared and the outcome became a grim certainty, right up until Hillary conceded in the early morning of November 9. I stayed because, as Emily Dickinson wrote:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers – 

That perches in the soul – 

And sings the tune without the words – 

And never stops – at all – 

I usually devote my mornings to writing, but when I awoke after three hours sleep on that post-election day, I crawled to my computer and, fueled by black coffee, did the only thing I could manage: Look for a balm for my broken heart. Something to get me through the next 24 hours, and the four years beyond that.

AP Photo/Carla K. Johnson) sandiegouniontribune.com
AP Photo/Carla K. Johnson) sandiegouniontribune.com

And I found it in the goodness of all the people out there whose hearts, even when outraged and hurting, do not harbor hate. I share here excerpts from two of those messages:

“Let’s get all these words out of the way: Devastated. Angry. Heartbroken. Outraged. Shocked. Sad. Disgusted. Ashamed. Discouraged. Exhausted. Shattered.

And now four more words — the most important ones: THESE. DOORS. STAY. OPEN.

… It’s up to us to keep fighting to protect Planned Parenthood health centers, so they can continue to serve the people who rely on them — people who come from communities that need our continued support in this new reality — immigrants, people of color, the LGBTQ community, people of faith, and more …

[These] doors will stay open because our voices get louder. Our determination grows stronger. And our commitment to protecting the rights and health care of millions of people is unwavering.

Whatever you’re feeling today, know that there are millions of us who feel the same way — and we aren’t going anywhere. I’m holding on tight to that truth this morning as I think about what comes next. It is so good to know we can count on each other, especially now.” (Planned Parenthood)

“Tragically, Donald J. Trump is the president-elect of the United States…  As we watched state after state turn red, we could not escape the realization that the country was taking a sharp turn for the worst.

To be clear, we’re under attack and we’re scared for our families and loved ones …

The stakes have never been higher. We have work to do and we need to be powerful enough to organize and refuse to support Trump’s regime and its heinous agenda …

London protests over shooting of American black teenager Michael Brown dailymail.co.uk
London protests over shooting of American black teenager Michael Brown dailymail.co.uk

In the face of a government that will force deportations, engage in rabid sexism, cultivate overt appeals to white nationalism and enforce brutal crackdowns on protesters, we have a duty and responsibility to act, to build, and to resist hate, fear, and violence.” (Presente Action)

Fighting Hate With Love

As a force in the world, I’m not certain love is stronger than hate. But it certainly is healthier. Hate maims, kills, sucks all the oxygen from our lives, from the planet. Love creates, rejuvenates, breathes life, breeds joy and connection. In the face of the fight ahead, we will need great quantities of love to fuel our efforts. Without love, how can we fight for a more loving world? Hate robs us of our humanity. Without our humanity, how can we build a more humane society? The signature of love is social justice. The signature of hate is revenge. I want to fight hate with all the love in my heart.

And when enough of us do that together, love will trump hate.

Where Does Anger Fit Into This?no-trump-no-dapl-north-dakota-protest1

I’m ANGRY. Angry that so many of my fellow citizens voted for a man endorsed by white supremacists; a man who has vowed to ignore our commitments to the Paris Agreement dealing with climate change, who would let our beautiful planet, with its abundant life, rot so that fossil fuel billionaires can bank more billions; a sexual predator who thinks of women as toys to be used and discarded, and LGBTQ people as “abominations”; a man who has … well, the list goes on and on with every nightmare scenario imaginable for both domestic and foreign policy.

But anger is an emotion, in the abstract neither good nor bad and with the potential to be either. All the reports say Trump’s supporters were angry, angry, angry. But instead of channeling that anger into positive action for a better world, they let it rankle inside. Become something toxic. Become the hatred and distrust of everyone “else.” That’s what unfocused anger becomes: hatred.

To be constructive, anger must fuel positive action. Personally, I don’t have the time or energy to spend hating the people who would destroy this planet, deport my friends, steal my children’s future. Better to take the love I have for my fellow human beings, the animals, our world, and this life—and let that love direct my anger in fighting the people and policies that would harm them. There were many messages, like this one, in my Inbox on November 9, reminding me that love is a powerful force:

no-trump-mgid-ao-image-mtv“Our editor-in-chief, Clara Jeffery, wrote an essay last night (because none of us could sleep anyway). She explained:

“There is no time, no room, no space to do anything but push back against what, in large part, this will turn out to be: not just a protest vote by rural whites who feel left behind, but the coming out of a burgeoning while nationalist, authoritarian movement …  Trump appealed to America’s worst impulses. Now it’s on the rest of us to show, to prove, that this is not all that America is. This is a time when we’re called on to do things we may not have done before. To face down bigotry and hate, and to reach beyond our Facebook feeds in trying to do so.” (Mother Jones)

Scary Times: Handling the Fear

I’m not trying to be clever when I say fear is a terrifying feeling. Most of us will go a long ways around a situation to avoid tangling with our fears. But fear doesn’t vanish because we keep our head down. Fears multiply in silence and inaction. We have to adopt the attitude of the main character in the Dr. Seuss story I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew. After a long, difficult journey seeking a way to avoid trouble in life, he realizes there is no magical trouble-free place:

Then I started back home

To the Valley of Vung.

I know I’ll have troubles.

I’ll, maybe, get stung.

I’ll always have troubles.

I’ll, maybe, get bit

By the Green-Headed Quail

On the place where I sit.

But I’ve bought a big bat.

I’m all ready, you see.

Now my troubles are going

To have troubles with me!

A Trump presidency scares many of us, but we are the only ones who can stem the tide of assaults on our democracy and the world. As this message from Grassroots International reminds us, U.S. policy reverberates globally:UNSUB Global hands-600497_960_720

“As a global funder and advocacy organization, Grassroots International knows all too well that the damages of US policies and practices does not stop at our borders. In fact, some of the worst aspects of US policy play out regularly in the lives of our partners around the world.

  • Social movements in Brazil are currently engaged in their own struggle against right-wing forces, installed by an institutional coup.
  • Haitian peasants continue to organize to create alternative economies and new solutions in the face of predatory international practices and climate crisis …
  • Palestinians continue to live under a siege funded heavily by US aid.
  • Everywhere, communities face the ravages of climate change while the US refuses to address its root causes.

As we try to figure out what the election means for us in the US, let’s remember that we are part of a much larger community on this one planet.” (Grassroots International)

You Are Not Alone

The good news is none of us has to face these fears or wage the struggle alone. In the many e-mails I received the morning after the election, this was the common thread: We will fight for a better world together.

One of my favorite messages came from the ACLU:

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) huffingtonpost.com
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) huffingtonpost.com

“If President-elect Trump tries to make his unlawful and unconstitutional campaign promises into policy, we’ll see him in court. He’ll have to face the full force of the ACLU – all of our lawyers and advocates in every state.

And he’ll have to answer to you—the millions of action-takers, activists, and card-carrying members leading the fight for rights and liberties for all. Together, we’ll fight for women, for people of color, for the LGBT community, for immigrants – for everyone in this country.” (ACLU)

POW! BAM! You gotta love those guys!

Heed History

The American Dream is not about a 5,000 square-foot house in the burbs and the right of white people to lord it over everyone else. The true American Dream, that vision of a stronger-together melting pot, was the first prescient step into a global future. I keep hearing that Trump’s supporters fear and loathe a global world, that they want to turn back the clock to a time where there were no troubles and everyone (who mattered) was a white American. That time, though, never existed. Even in the five minutes of sun-soaked glory the U.S. reveled in after World War II, fear and hatred cast a long shadow over many of ourno-trump-civil-rights-march-march_marcherswithsigns citizens. The McCarthy witch hunts to expose the “Commies” among us turned American against American. The Jim Crow laws  of the South and the de facto segregation of the North prevented Black Americans from equal access to education, housing, jobs, even diners and restrooms.

But using courage and love, Black Americans triumphed over hate and fear. The Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s stood up to Jim Crow and declared that an American dream that does not encompass all Americans is a sham. Black Americans and their white allies faced down their tormentors, risked their lives (and some lost their lives) to win the Civil Rights Act and The Voting Rights Act.

RUBY 2As Congressman John Lewis, said: “Our struggle is a struggle to redeem the soul of America. It’s not a struggle that lasts for a few days, a few weeks, a few months, or a few years. It is the struggle of a lifetime, more than one lifetime.”

In a darker lesson, we know what happens when people look away from injustice, hide from their fears. Two days before the election, this reminder appeared on Twitter under the hashtag #beentheredonethat:

 

“Dear Americans,

Go ahead, vote for the guy with the loud voice who hates minorities, threatens to imprison his opponents, doesn’t give a fuck about democracy, and claims he alone can fix everything. What could possibly go wrong?

Good luck.no-trump-hitleryouth

– The people of Germany”

What if people had rejected Hitler’s rise to power in 1933? What if people had taken to the streets in massive numbers when the Nuremberg Laws were passed in 1935, laws that denied Jews any civil rights whatsoever? What if they had fought the round-up and execution of gays, the mentally-disabled, and Communists?

We face an enormous challenge going forward, but I believe we can meet it. Because we must.   Because love, in action, is stronger than hate. Because inclusive, progressive values won the popular vote. By a margin of something close to a million. And that margin gives me hope.

no-trump-hands-joined-lastdownload

The Bard Speaks Out On Immigration

We do pray for mercy, and that same prayer doth teach us all to render the deeds of mercy.    (William Shakespeare)

With all this frenzied chatter about a monolithic wall to keep “bad hombres” out, and religious tests to ban Muslims from entering the United States, one might get the impression that hostility toward immigrants is a new phenomenon in America, reflective of  a contemporary global threat in its urgency to keep us “safe.” Nothing could be further from the truth. (Have patience, we’ll get to Shakespeare before the final curtain.)

When the Religious Society of Friends, who became known as Quakers, formed in mid-17th century England, they were persecuted by the established church and its leaders. Some Quakers took refuge in the Netherlands. Others came to the New World where, quelle surprise!, their books were burned, their

Mary Dyer led to execution on Boston Common, 1 June 1660. Color engraving. Copyprint Nineteenth Century. Library of Congress. Courtesy of The Granger Collection, New York
Mary Dyer led to execution on Boston Common, 1 June 1660. Color engraving. Copyprint Nineteenth Century. Library of Congress. Courtesy of The Granger Collection, New York

property confiscated, and their “heretic” selves thrown into prisons or banished by Massachusetts Puritans. Several were executed.

Under the leadership of Roger Williams, a community of Quakers established a safe haven at Providence Plantations (now, Rhode Island) in 1657, but that same year saw Quakers being flogged, fined, and imprisoned in New Amsterdam (the southern tip of Manhattan). When Edward Hart, the town clerk of Flushing, reminded Governor Stuyvesant that the town charter promised citizens liberty of conscience, Hart was arrested along with two other magistrates who had signed his petition.

What Would Emma Lazarus Say?

Okay, it can be argued that this was well before we declared our independence and became this grand experiment called the United States of America. Before we proclaimed ourselves a melting pot. Before the Statue of Liberty lifted her torch, a beacon of light to welcome the world’s “huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” as poet Emma Lazarus put it. And yet, in the several decades both before and after Lady Liberty was erected (1886), hostility to immigrants was vocal and widespread.immigrant-chinese-americans-build-pacific-railroad2010-08-30_railroadsf9b0

What were these “dirty, lazy, untrustworthy” Irish, Italians, and Chinese wannabe citizens doing to earn such public disapprobation?

Well, many of them were building the railroads that would span the country, connecting the East Coast to the West, and increasing the wealth of a newly-industrialized America by millions.

One of the charges made against immigrants then and now is that they “steal” jobs from “real” Americans. But I’m guessing the wealth did not trickle down to those who actually built the railroads. And the work was brutal. Tunneling through the Sierra Mountains at eight inches a day with hammers and chisels, always under threat from the black powder used to blast through the rock. Laying down mile after mile of track by hand in the rain, wind, and snow. Today, immigrants harvest our food and slaughter livestock on industrial and factory farms. Grueling work that leaves many workers sick and broken. Let’s be honest: Immigrants have always done the jobs no one else wants to do. And their employers have always profited handsomely. Sub-minimum wages. No benefits.

The (Reluctant) Melting Pot

Discrimination against immigrants based on religion, and the resulting clamor to implement discriminatory immigration laws is not new either. The influx of Irish immigrants throughout the 1800s met with violent riots and demands for limits on their rights. The Order of the Star-Spangled Banner, a kind of KKK against Catholic immigrants, supported a 21-year waiting period for naturalization and a ban blocking anyone but native-born Protestants from holding public office.  The OSSB later reformed as the American Party under the motto “Americans Shall Rule America.” In the decade before the Civil War, they won a number of local and state elections.

http://www.victoriana.com/history/irish-political-cartoons.html
http://www.victoriana.com/history/irish-political-cartoons.html

Americans were so disgruntled by the influx of Italian immigrants in the 1920s, President Woodrow Wilson felt empowered to enact a raft of anti-immigration legislation. Italians were thought to be low-class, ignorant, and prone to criminal activity. And like the Irish, they were Catholics.

Most shameful of all is the hard line taken by the U.S. against Jews fleeing certain death at the hands of Hitler and his Nazis. In a November 2015 Smithsonian article, Daniel A. Gross writes: In a long tradition of “persecuting the refugee,” the State Department and FDR claimed that Jewish immigrants could threaten national security.

In 1942, a ship transporting hundreds of Jewish refugees seeking asylum from Nazi persecution left Sweden for New York City. On board was a German man, Herbert K.F. Bahr, who the FBI later accused of being a Nazi spy, paid by the Gestapo to steal American industrial secrets. His case got a speedy trial where the prosecution asked for the death penalty. But the real crime was that Bahr’s alleged treachery was used as an excuse to prevent thousands of Jews from entering the country. Even President Roosevelt argued the threat to national security posed by a spy in refugee clothing.

Bahr, however, was more of a lightning rod for prevailing anti-immigrant attitudes than a cause for same. As far back as the late 1930s, the U.S. was denying visas to European Jews. In 1939, the German liner St. Louis with its hundreds of Jewish passengers was turned away at the port of Miami and forced to return to Europe, where many of those aboard died in the Holocaust.immigrant-jewish-girls-looking-out-through-port-holeestate_of_ruth_orkin_jewish_refugees_at_lydda_airport_tel_aviv_1951c_20_2089_41

Although most historians, Gross says, believe Bahr to have been the exception rather than the rule, government agencies such as the State Department were happy to use him to promote their case against refugees. It wasn’t until 1944 that a whistleblower from the Treasury Department issued a report stating:

“I am convinced on the basis of the information which is available to me that certain officials in our State Department, which is charged with carrying out this policy, have been guilty not only of gross procrastination and wilful failure to act, but even of wilful attempts to prevent action from being taken to rescue Jews from Hitler.”

As a result of this report, Roosevelt created the War Refugee Board, an organization that made it possible for tens of thousands of Jewish refugees to gain entrance to America. But what of the hundreds of thousands, even millions, of Jews who might have been saved in the years before?

Present Echoes of the Past
https://cdn.theatlantic.com
https://cdn.theatlantic.com

Today’s refugee crisis is as great as that of World War II. The total number of displaced people at the end of 2015 was 65.3 million (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), or one out of every 113 people on Earth, and the number keeps rising.

Again, we hear protests over religion. They’re Muslims! (Echo: Jews! Catholics!) Again, we hear how refugees will take Americans’ jobs (would these be the jobs already farmed out to countries where U.S. corporations pay $1.00 or less an hour?). Perhaps they have the “wrong” skin color, speak the “wrong” language, play the “wrong” games or laugh at the “wrong” things.

Let me repeat: The fight against immigrants is nothing new. Will Shakespeare understood this. He made an eloquent case for mercy toward refugees in his 147-line contribution to the revised drama Sir Thomas More (originally written by Anthony Munday).

In Shakespeare’s day, upheavals over religion and the flexing of muscle by new nation states (remember, this is the dawn of capitalism) brought many refugees/immigrants to England’s shores. The English people, feeling the strain of several bad harvests and the continual feeding of Elizabeth I’s war chest, resented the  newcomers and feared these “foreigners” would (all together now) TAKE THEIR JOBS! Riots were common. Sir Thomas More was felt to be so incendiary in its portrayal of such riots that the Master of the Revels would not allow the play to be performed during Elizabeth’s lifetime.

In his contribution to the revised play, Shakespeare has Thomas More deliver a moving address to the anti-immigrant rioters. Through More, Shakespeare pleads for compassion and tolerance. What if it were you? he asks.

Petros Giannakouris AP http://www.sacbee.com/
Petros Giannakouris AP http://www.sacbee.com/

You’ll put down strangers, 
Kill them, cut their throats, possess their houses, 
And lead the majesty of law in lyam 
To slip him like a hound; alas, alas, say now the King, 
As he is clement if th’offender mourn, 
Should so much come too short of your great trespass 
As but to banish you: whither would you go? 
What country, by the nature of your error, 
Should give you harbour? Go you to France or Flanders, 
To any German province, Spain or Portugal, 
Nay, anywhere that not adheres to England, 
Why, you must needs be strangers, would you be pleas’d 
To find a nation of such barbarous temper 
That breaking out in hideous violence 
Would not afford you an abode on earth. 
Whet their detested knives against your throats, 
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God 
Owed not nor made not you, not that the elements 
Were not all appropriate to your comforts, 
But charter’d unto them? What would you think 
To be us’d thus? This is the strangers’ case
And this your mountainish inhumanity.
 

[my italics]

Shakespeare understood: It’s not easy to leave your homeland. Your extended family. All your connections and familiar places. People who do so risk everything they have. They are strong, resourceful, determined, hopeful. Not bad qualities for a prospective citizen. I like to think we are big enough, strong enough, kind enough to take them in. It’s who we profess to be after all. A nation of immigrants. And how terrible it would be to realize, as Oskar Schindler does (at the close of Schindler’s List), “I could have got more out. I could have got more. I didn’t do enough.”