I have never been much of an activist. I'm not much for yelling. Or creating catchy phrases. Or standing and holding signs. While I often feel passionately about one topic or another, I've refrained from participating in marches, demonstrations and rallies, always under the notion that surely plenty of others would be there and would be passionate enough for the two of us. Besides, there was work. Or sleep. Or whatever other excuse I could conjure that would allow me to politely decline any invitation to join the cause.
And then a bill on comprehensive immigration reform was introduced.
My old bag of excuses simply drifted away. I wanted to participate in any way I could. In my willingness, I began to realize that it wasn't so much my voice or my catchy phrase or my sign that was needed. Just my presence. I didn't need to be particularly loud about my support. I just needed to be there. To be counted.
Through out American history, people have demonstrated and rallied and marched to say that something just wasn't right in this country. That people were hurting. That systems were unjust. And that it wasn't okay. It is one of the many luxuries of this country that I have long taken for granted. This idea that if we don't like something, we have the right, the freedom, to go out there and say something about it. Without fear. Can I say that again? Without fear.
I have this theory, that immigration reform is going to be one of those key issues that my (future) children will study in school one day. They'll learn the different sides of the issue. They'll read about what the opponents said and what those in favor argued. And they'll make their own decision.
And I hope they'll ask me about it. Because when they do, I'll share stories about how I was there. In Chicago. In the absolute heart of the Mexican immigrant community. And I'll tell them about how I talked to anyone who would listen about how unjust the then-current system was and how it tore families apart. And how I went to the rallies and demonstrations. I didn't yell much. But I was there. Because that's what mattered most. My presence. I'll tell them what I told my students and friends and family: Those immigration laws certainly weren't going to reform themselves. And so being there became a necessity.
And I'll tell them that if they want something to change, they have to be there. They have to be counted. They have to stand in solidarity with those most effected. Change doesn't happen with one person standing alone begging for it. It happens when groups of people come together and persist.