On the fourteenth evening the moon was gliding over Luneburg heath. There he saw a bunch of people, they were emigrants. They were leaving their home country and going to America to seek a better fortune. There had been taxes too heavy to pay. There had been no way to live in their home countries.
As they settled for the night in the light of the waning moon, they heard the song of a nightingale. The wanderers took it for good fortune and in a way it was, but if they could have understood the song of the nightingale they would have thought differently.
Fare away over the sea! Thou hast paid the long passage with all that was thine, and poor and helpless shalt thou enter Canaan. Thou must sell thyself, thy wife, and thy children. But your griefs shall not last long. Behind the broad fragrant leaves lurks the goddess of Death, and her welcome kiss shall breathe fever into thy blood. Fare away, fare away, over the heaving billows.
In the morning the women in their bonnets looked like ghosts as they journeyed across the heath.
Oh, pray, pray for those who are wandering to find graves beyond the foaming billows!
That was the fourteenth evening.
The Luneburg heath is in Northern Germany. This would have been before WWII, so the boundaries were a little different than they are today. People traveling through this area were probably traveling form either Germany or Eastern Europe. The thing about Europe is that the Western part of Europe is fairly steady in what countries are where and who rules what, but Eastern Europe has often been a bit more frazzled. Countries have changed. Wars have been fought. At times Eastern Europe has been a fairly violent place, mostly because of its proximity to Russia and the Middle East. Some of the most notorious characters in history have come from Eastern Europe, Elizabeth Bathory and Vlad the Impaler just to name a couple.
Yes, there have been unjust taxes. Yes, people have left, often in droves. For periods of history it was a very rough place to live. In fact, right now, parts of Eastern Europe are very rough places. There may not be a Vlad the Impaler, but there is plenty of crime and social unrest.
America right? The land of the free and the home of the brave! The land of opportunity! Sounds awesome right? The rivers flow with milk and honey. The streets are paved in gold. We eat ice cream for breakfast every single day. Sounds cool? Right?
America has always been touted as the land of opportunity. Go there and you can get a job. You can live like a king. It doesn’t matter what color you are because it’s a melting pot.
America has always been used as this symbol. Does it deserve the symbolism? Does the America that I live in deserve this title of being the land of the free and the land of opportunity? Is it easy for people to just come over here and make it big? Live the American dream?
Look, no, it’s not easy; it’s freaking hard, really, really hard. You can’t just come over here and be like, “I’m a CEO now.” I can’t even do that and I’ve lived here my entire life; I was born here; my family has been here for generations. I still can’t just be like, “Well, make me the CEO.” It isn’t easy to have the “American Dream.”
These people in this story had heard this story. They heard about the American dream. They knew their life in their homeland was dead. They had been taxed out of living there. They tried for the best thing they had heard of. Who wants to emigrate to England when you can go to America? Well, me, but we’re not talking about me. These people had heard the name American and it dazzled in their eyes, but the nightingale told a different story.
The nightingale foretold of their deaths. Their new lives were apparently not going to be easy. The nightingale said that they would sacrifice everything only to find death. While death is in face a respite from the woes of life, nobody wants to die before their perceived time. The truth of the matter is that ships sank. People died of disease when emigrating to the United States. Sometimes people weren’t allowed off of Ellis Island. Life for immigrants was difficult in the United States, especially in a place like New York where everyone developed their own little sections of towns instead of mixing in; some of this still exists today.
The place you go to might not be any better than the place you left and it might end up the worse for you. It’s just a chance you have to take. Should you stay and be taxed forever or should you take the plunge and try somewhere new? We’re not the nightingale. We cannot foretell the future. We don’t know what will be in store for us. Maybe it will be great or maybe it will be our death.
Remember, all that glitters is not gold; it could be a shiny poisonous snake.
If you knew that moving somewhere would be you tragedy, would you still move there?
If you’re trading one evil for another evil, do you keep your first evil, or go for the new evil just because it’s something different from the old evil?