Thursday, June 3, 2010

Palm Trees by Wooten Gough
Trail of Dreams
Posted on May 27, 2010 by None

We had been driving for days when we finally arrived into Miami, Florida. I looked at my cell phone to see what time it was, and funny enough it was 3:05 am. I rolled down the window to the RV and felt the warm breeze rush into my face; I could smell the salt in the atmosphere. The first thing I noticed was the palm trees. I had never seen a palm tree before and I was mesmerized by them.

The next morning we went to the Freedom Tower and across the street there were more palm trees but this time I really got to appreciate them in the sunlight. I went over to get a closer look at one and noticed that the bottom of the tree was the fattest part and it clearly served as a base of support since the tree was so tall. The smooth stem of the tree rose about 60 feet and blossomed into many large branches that casted shade down below. No matter where we went in Miami, I noticed the palm trees and gained a sense of respect for them because of their natural beauty.

A little over a week later we flew westward across the country and landed in Phoenix, Arizona. When we arrived it was night time and I was really tired so I was not as aware of my surroundings as usual. However, the next day I noticed with unbelievable astonishment that palm trees also flourished in Phoenix! But something was different. These trees were not like the trees I had fallen in love with in Miami. They weren’t smooth and majestic, nor were they an eloquent grayish-brown, they didn’t even provide that much shade! Instead they were super skinny, prickly, ugly orange-brown, and overall disappointing and in my mind they weren’t even real palm trees.

During our stay in Arizona I saw many people working together to get everything ready for the big march on May 29th. People were hustling, phone-banking, passing out fliers, contacting media, you name it and it was being taken care of. The organization was amazing! I also got the chance to visit the vigil that had been going on for days ever since Governor Brewer signed SB 1070. The energy there immediately grounded me, rooted me. It was a beautiful visual with inspiring people, and yet, to many in Arizona and thousands in the country, these individuals were criminals. But why? Were they criminals for working everyday in the fields while getting underpaid? Were they criminals because they spoke a language that not everyone around them speaks? Were they criminals for wanting their children to go to school? And were the children criminals for having dreams and trying to accomplish their goals? Or are they criminals because they are different? And is being different enough to be hated? No, these individuals are not criminals, and even if someone was a criminal, that person never stops being a human.

I realized later that that was my attitude towards these new Phoenix palm trees. At first I thought I didn’t like them because they were really skinny and pointy but I didn’t like them because they were not like the palm trees in Miami. They were different. But that isn’t an excuse for me to dislike the palm trees in Phoenix. That is exactly what I learned on the Trail of Dreams: that everyone is a human, everyone has dreams, everyone has aspirations, even if they are different. What I saw while walking on the Trail were the minds of so many people changing about how they felt about undocumented individuals as the four walkers told their stories. At the beginning of conversations, people look at the walkers as undocumented students and when the walkers finish speaking, those same people wipe the tears from their eyes and see the walkers not as undocumented, but as humans, people just like them. That is the beautiful transition I saw taking place in the hearts and minds on the Trail. But it isn’t enough to ask for others to view us as human. We have to look at them as humans as well. The racist person is a human, the ignorant person, is a human, and the anti-immigrant is a human too. No matter what someone does or is, that person is still a person. No matter what characteristics a palm tree has, it is still a palm tree.
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