New Frontier: No. 22 of 40 Forts
I had the opportunity recently to hear the stories of a couple of people who had immigrated to the United States. As I listened to their stories, I was struck by a few things. They wanted to be like me. I felt almost like by being an American, they wanted to hang out with the cool kids in elementary school. But the cool kids have no idea how important it is. The funniest quote revealed, “We watch everything. If our neighbor takes out their garbage on Wednesdays, we take out our garbage, too. We want to assimilate and be part of you.” It was very sweet.
But I was surprised by how afraid these people were. They were not able to go out to eat. Or drive to work. Shop. Live. They were not able to do pretty much anything without being afraid. Maybe the timing was uncanny, but the day before I had JUST read the obituary of Miep Gies, the woman who hid Anne Frank .
A question came up. So what’s next? What do you do? How do you get in line to get your papers? We have no idea.
What. So all of the people who live here are just here. There is no way to really move forward other than living in fear of being deported. That doesn’t make any sense. There is NOTHING that you can do?
So our house prices are falling, homes are sitting empty, banks are failing, businesses are closing, and our consumer spending is fragile. It seems like if we can begin to figure out SOME kind of process that would allow immigrants to get in “a line” to live here, we can then allow them to live freely. In turn, their money would help support our failing banks. They would be able to buy homes. Shop. Eat out. Use their education. Start businesses. Create new jobs. Not live in fear.
I know that this is an incredibly complicated problem. I don’t know what the solution is. I know I’m not in favor of anything extreme. But I do believe that some kind of reform needs to take place. Because I do not believe in fear. It gets us nowhere except frozen in our seats doing nothing.
I know that one issue that frightens a lot of people is the language barrier. It is very hard when an adult has to learn a new language. Believe me. I can barely put a sentence together in Spanish. And I spent much of the past weekend asking, “What did he say? What did she say?” But a lot of people are able to understand what is being said, but are too nervous to reply. That is true for me. And for Martina. But the kids… well, they know.
Henry was born speaking Spanish as his first language. His brother and Sesame Street taught him how to read English. My favorite moment was when he posted his GRE scores on the fridge in Chapel Hill. He made a 99.7 percentile on his English and Reading Comp. Math, well, that’s another story.
I created this piece in response to hearing the immigration stories. Once again, this is an issue that is very hot in the media right now. Today four students arrived in DC after walking 1500 miles from Florida. Read more about Trail of Dreams and these students’ courageous journey. It takes a lot of guts to speak up and take action. According to their web site:
On January 1, 2010, we embarked on a 1,500-mile walk from our home in Miami, FL, to Washington, D.C to share our stories, so that everyday Americans understand what it’s like for the millions of young immigrants like us, unable to fully participate in society. It’s time that our country come together to fix a failed system that keeps millions in the shadows, with no pathway to a better life.
They also share their views on Arizona’s recent law:
On April 23, 2010, Governor Jan Brewer from Arizona signed SB1070 into law. In every community that we have walked through, we have met children left orphaned due to their parents’ deportation and young people afraid of not being able to fulfill their potential. Measures such as SB1070 are detrimental to our communities and irresponsible.
After thinking about the fear of both Americans and immigrants, I thought about how hearing personal stories might help us understand one another. I wrote:
She prayed that the facade of fear would fold as stories were told.
I used a paper clip to hold the entire structure together, in an attempt to illustrate a facade. It resembles a building on one side, but something much more temporary on the back. The text is written in the form of an open book tucked into the infrastructure.
This paper sculpture, roughly the size of a coffee cup, is one of forty forts I created during Lent 2010 as a creative exercise and spiritual exploration.