Words Words Words

As I (finally and belatedly) finish my project, I took a moment to look back over the collection of words I’ve amassed due to this project. Not only are there the poems that I painstakingly copied down because you can’t photocopy things from the NYPL, but there are my pages of scribbled notes from my interviews, the post-interview notes I wrote for myself, my synthesis of what I’d learned from the past and what I’d learned from the present situation. I looked at the newspaper clippings about immigration my grandma sent to me when she heard about the project. I looked at my three page Word document of links to online articles about the causes of immigration, the problems it poses, how it benefits us as a country.

I’m a writer and a reader, and so I am the first to say that words are infused with more value than we perhaps understand. But all these words amount to nothing if all they do is grow dusty on a shelf, or remain buried in a Google cache somewhere. It’s hard to say what one can “do” about immigration in this day and age, where the benefits and the problems vary depending on who you’re talking to, so perhaps what one can ‘do’ is simply open one’s mind a little more. Immigrants come to America because it is a chance for them, it is an opening that they have to seize. But that doesn’t mean everything is roses. All immigrants, wherever they’re from and wherever they’re going, lose something, leave things behind. Words help us to understand that grief, but we must see them as more than just words; we have to understand them as a conduit to ourselves, as a bridge between Italian war brides and Chilean poets and students at William and Mary. It can happen. And this possiblity means that we can build our world with a little more understanding, something that I think our time desperately needs.