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Posts published in “Day: February 2, 2017”

Advice from a Democrat

schmidt

What I stand for is what I stand on.” - Wendell Berry

If you love where you live, stay put. Get to know your neighbors, your countryside, the history and the institutions. Ask yourself what it is you love, and then find out what your neighbors love; surely you have a lot in common besides your zip code.

You may feel marginalized; indeed you may experience prejudice. There is good evidence that people feel more strongly now about party affiliation than they do about race. It seems now people are more nervous about a family member marrying into the other political affiliation than across a racial divide.

Now relax, don’t hide your face or use a different drinking fountain. Understand we are all in this together, no matter the insults and labels that come too easily to mind. For the community you love and our state to prosper, we all will need to participate. A good conversation is in order. Maybe you could start with what exactly your vision for prosperity means. Listen to your neighbor’s vision. These conversations require patience, respect and time. I hope you have all three, because nowadays it seems they might be in short supply. Show your neighbor you have some to spare.

Know you may be in a Facebook or CNN or NPR or Fox News bubble. The slant of those we listen to can make us think we are all knowing; disabuse yourself of that arrogance. Such humility can be hard when one feels marginalized, and it can be even harder when you feel affirmed. We all are on shaky ground.

Don’t let outrage be the slogan on your t-shirt, even if that’s what you see on your neighbor’s ball cap in the grocery aisle. Be yourself; a citizen with all our rights and responsibilities. And expect your fellow citizens to be too. Let them know respectfully when they fall short, but never shirk your duty either.

Know your community. There may come a time when your love of community is deeply questioned and my original advice to stay put seems questionable. But remember that there’s something here you love, and your neighbors must also. It is not unreasonable to be in a place where there is conflict. Lend your voice and your effort to this conflict so that a vision for prosperity can emerge. We need a shared vision.
Don’t whine and don’t bitch. Get to work. Is there a cemetery district that needs a commissioner? Could you make your city council stronger? Is your church serving your community, or just the parishioners? Do you have faith in the institutions that make your community one you love, and if not, what can you offer to restore that faith? We need work.

Finally, I ask you to question party affiliation; not give it up, but make sure of the value.

Does this branding we do serve us, and the communities we love? It can be such a tribal marker that bears no use for the vision we have for prosperity. If we weren’t looking through the colored lenses of the glasses we have put on, would the world, our neighbors, their vision for the future and ours look clearer? Don’t be afraid to take those tinting lenses off and see people, neighbors, and institutions in the clear light of day.

We are all flawed. We all need work. Let’s get to it.

Am I next?

watkins

Last night we went to dinner with some friends; came home and relaxed a bit and then headed for bed – a pretty normal Saturday evening for many folks in the United States.

Except, instead of immediately going to sleep, I lay in bed thinking about the stark contrast between my evening, and the thousands – tens of thousands – of people in airports throughout this country who thought they'd be getting off of a plane and doing something very similar. Instead, some of them were waiting to find out if they would be allowed to ever leave the airports, and others lawyers and protesters doing everything they could to ensure the travelers would be allowed to enter or in many cases return home.

And I wondered: If this keeps up, when will I become a target of the racism and xenophobia that underlays the current situation?

A friend tells me I'm over-reacting; there's no way I could be mistaken for anything other than a shiny, white U.S. citizen. But I'm not so sure.

Growing up, I was flattered when classmates asked if I was Native American. When I visited Mexico, I was amused when North Americans (Canadians and U.S. citizens) assumed I was Mexican; and Mexicans assumed I was Italian. I know that I'm primarily of Scandinavian and Eastern European descent, but like most multi-generational U.S. citizens, there are a few other ethnic genes in my pool and most likely Native American is one of them. For some reason those are a bit more dominant so my skin is slightly darker, and during the summer that coloration is even more pronounced. So, dark hair, dark skin ... definitely more likely to be mistaken for something other than European descent.

And apparently, those are the first things some people see when they look at me – so, if the United States continues down the path our new “leader” and his neo-Nazi advisor are setting for us, how long will it be before I'm one of those being detained?

Right now, I live far from the action, in a small town that's not too involved in the current immigration situation. And right now, only immigrants from certain countries and a certain religion are the targets. But, I keep wondering: How long before the net widens?

My friend doesn't see it happening here. I'm guessing most of the folks who live here don't see it happening here. That's always the problem, isn't it? We always think it will happen to someone else, if it happens at all.

It's hard to live here in this small, quiet, friendly western Oregon town and recognize at the same time that I'm safe and warm and well-fed, there are people sitting in airports around the world whose lives have just been turned up-side-down. It's hard to comprehend that there are people being shot at, starving, murdered, raped, or jailed just for being who they are – in every country in the world.

I understand why my friend thinks I'm over-reacting, but we all need to understand that what's right now happening to “others” could easily, tomorrow or the next day, be happening to each of us. We could just as easily be targeted for one or two specific characteristics that make us different from another group.

So, what will they do if it does happen here? What if that executive order is expanded to include other races, and other nationalities or left-handed people; people with green eyes; or people with mental or physical disabilities? Because, I'm pretty sure that if we don't speak out loud and strong now that's exactly what will happen. And that does worry me, because every time I look in the mirror, I see someone who could easily be part of the next targeted group.