By Emma Coyle
There is more to migration than the passage from one place to the next. It is built into the nature of people to desire movement, exploration and new experiences. Unfortunately migration can become a necessity instead of an active choice taken on by those who must relocate. The word migration implies a lengthy journey, one that changes the very nature of the way that people orient themselves in the world and how they see themselves and their community. It can lead to closer ties between those who have made the trek together or lead to new connections with those they met along the way.
It is impossible to look up migration without finding streams of articles and information about the pathways ancient humans took to discover the far reaches of the globe. Or to think of birds as they traverse from north to south and back again with the seasons, lives defined by the places in which they grow up, start families, and return again year after year. Those same landmarks are what people remember as they age. The places where they created their identity.
Most migration in the modern world is not connected with the dignity afforded birds or Neanderthals of whom museums write lengthy prose about their remarkable journeys. The word migrant has becomes something to denigrate instead of uplift. It isn’t even used neutrally. Nations and nation-states try to hold their loosely defined peoples in and keep all others out. People’s lives often do not function within those boundaries.
The news is full of supposedly well reasoned writing on the problem with migrants. With discussion of border walls. With deportation of those who have come from elsewhere and found themselves in a new environment often so different from where they came. No one tries to limit the movement of birds and no one says that pre-historic people should have stayed in Africa and never explored past the fertile crescent. They are merely facts of life. And even more so they are appreciated for how they have reshaped the world.
On roads there are signs that tell drivers to watch out for the geese when they arrive. People look forward to the the change of seasons and the way in which, every year, they see flocks arrive, whether they are brightly colored or if they blend in with the environment. Why is it so much easier to have appreciation for the migration of birds than empathy for the difficulties faced by migrants? Why do we not look forward to embracing the ways in which all lives become better when movement is possible?