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Posted: Tuesday, July 5th 2011 at 8:44am

Four (Moving) Words

By Stan Hall Staff
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT
Despite what my seventh grade English teacher might say, I am an ardent student of words. Well, she may admit that even as a seventh grader, I had a good resource of words. But, it was not the list of words she may have approved of. Over the years I have noticed a pattern of words that lead to change. While the change can be both for good or bad, and can be both popular or negative, they literally all end in the same fashion. It seems that any word that ends with "gration" usually stirs up trouble to some degree once it is uttered.

I remember clearly the history lessons of the migration to the west by the early settlers in our country. The move was one with potential reward, but many dreams never came to fruition and many lives were lost in the quest for a better life. Migration was a powerful word that resulted in some very powerful change for many people.

My second encounter with a "gration" word came in the mid sixties. I was going into fifth grade and had little notice or warning as to how this "gration" word would affect me and so many others. It was of course the word integration. It was a word that seemed to be despised by so many, but was one that contained real and adequate power to prevent anyone or anything from getting in its way. As with the migration example, it too was filled with hope and disappointment, and many people whose lives were lost, fought to see that this movement would not be stymied. Few knew that a word of only four syllables would cause such change to our country like we had never seen before. Some forty-four years later, it is a word that still stands tall even though there are those who apparently will never be content until its very actions are reversed.

And now, we find ourselves struggling with the third "gration" word of my lifetime. This one of course is immigration. A word, whose very definition has been embraced by our country from our humble beginnings. It is in fact the word that describes our genesis. It is now one that is still embraced, but the embracement is more of a choke hold rather than the interlocking arms of welcome. This “gration” word is much different than migration or integration. And, whether you appreciate its meaning and support as to what it stands for, or are in obvious dissent, the divide has been fairly consistent over the past few years. But, immigration is a word that has taken on a whole new meaning since its earliest usage.

In the beginning, we all recall how our country was built on the sweat and effort of those people who found their way to our country from all parts of the world. Some of the most significant accomplishments that we have made, as a nation, can be attributed toward those whose birth occurred in places far from our borders. And, most of us cannot go many generations back until we reach an ancestor who was part of the movement towards a better life that began somewhere else. Immigration, and immigrants, are as much a part of the fabric of this country as any iconic star, stripe or eagle that we can find.

But, immigration as it is perceived today by many is very different than the fascinating stories that began at places like Ellis Island. Just as the point of entry has been changed from Ellis Island to a fence in the remote desert at the border of the United States and Mexico, the real issue of immigration has been the changes as they pertain to the legal immigrants versus illegal immigrants. The ramifications of this migration period is one of the most complicated issues that we have ever had to grapple with as a country. While this issue is certainly that of a legal nature, the peripheral and personal issues that deal with what occurs after the illegal immigration occurs is a situation that can be both perplexing and frustrating to all parties. It is an issue that did not happen over night and will not be resolved over night. But, it is an issue that must not be ignored. It has the potential of dividing a country in a manner that could be very detrimental to us as a whole.

The last word of the day is one that ends a bit differently than the previous three. This word is degradation. A slight twist in the spelling but one that falls perfectly in sync with the other “gration” words mentioned thus far. Degrading, of course, has to do with some sense of decline or a low and demoralized state. One might argue that all three of the terms mentioned today came to life based on a sense of degradation. Whether it was migration, integration, or immigration; it was degradation that was the lynchpin for those movements to start. So many people, who based on their own situations, sank to a level whereby status quo was no longer a viable option. So many people who had reached such a level of degradation, that they put everything that they had at risk, including their own lives, to seek change.

History has shown that for the most part, these desperate acts proved to be worth the risk. Some never saw the end result. But for many others, the blood, sweat, and tears that was shed by so many have paved the way for others to walk in a light that would have never been possible without a series of words and actions all ending in a familiar “gration.” Just as history has or will issue the final pass or fail grade on these words, it will be interesting to see what “gration” word will appear next. Life is a continuing series of movements; where there is movement there will also be “gration” in some manner. And, as with the other words, these movements require all of us to buckle up for what typically is a bumpy ride before the final destination arrives.

Stan L. Hall

If you would like to have Stan speak at your next group event, please send your requests to shallbadgenotes@aol.com

The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and are not those of the Gwinnett District Attorney’s Office.

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