News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

The melting pot is boiling over

America, the melting pot of the world! A phrase I’ve grown up with that said all are welcome here. That this is a place where dreams come true. If you work hard enough and stick with it, anything is possible, for all people.

Listening to the news, I am struck by how wrong that concept can be. Yes, for a white, middle-class woman, it has been true, as it was for my parents, my brothers and sister, and my children. From all observations, it will be true for their children too.

Instead, I am beginning to see that this melting pot is gradually coming to a rolling boil, and it can, and will, boil over. How naïve I have been to not recognize the slow simmer that has been heating up that stew. How worried I am that the America I love may someday be only a horrible mess on the stove.

As I listen to the news, I hear of the discrimination Black families experience because of the color of their skin, the stories of Asian families that set them apart, and the sexual abuse of Indigenous children placed in the “loving” hands of those in charge at resident schools. All of these refute my notion of a delicious “stew.”

As I listen, I realize how I have done little to turn down the heat under that stew, primarily because I was unaware. Yes, I have learned to accept and welcome diversity in my community. I have gotten used to seeing mixed-race couples and applauded their ability to publicly declare their love. I have wrapped my arms around friends who have same-sex partners and invited them into my home. Recently I shared my home with a houseless person, gaining a new understanding and tolerance of different lifestyles. Beyond that, I ask myself, “What else can I do?”

Now, it is impossible to stay unaware.

As I hear of the recent shootings in Brooklyn and Texas, I reflect back three years to a similar shooting at an El Paso Walmart. I think about the children who lost their lives at Sandy Hook, Columbine, and other schools.

I grieve with the parents whose children will never again return home from school.

As a school board member, I wonder what precautions were neglected that would have kept the perpetrator from entering the building.

As a former teacher, I cry with the families of the teachers who lost their lives and the children who lost their classmates.

I dissolve into contemplation as I wonder how this can still be happening.

What has gone wrong with this dream? What is going wrong in our country?

Weekly, as I attend Sunday services at my church, I hear that love will save the world. I believe this profoundly. At least I thought I did. I must admit that when I first heard of the shootings in Brooklyn and Texas I wondered, “How can we love someone who will do such a thing?” I had to be reminded that forgiveness provides the answer.

This was brought home to me while listening to a reporter whose brother had been gunned down by a sniper. She related how she was able to eventually forgive the shooter for his heinous crime once she realized forgiving is not the same as forgetting. Recognizing how forgiving not only impacts the perpetrator but those left behind, she experienced peace. We cannot forget these horrible crimes or stop trying to keep them from happening. However, we must learn to forgive.

Hearing another commentator talk about the common denominator of humanity that connects us all, gave me hope.

He was a rapper, sharing his thoughts through music, hoping to reach many with his message.

His words moved me to write, to share my thoughts.

The love I believe in does not need to be tied to any faith or theology.

It’s not even a philosophy.

It’s a way of approaching all of life with respect and thoughtfulness.

It’s a way to look around to see what we can do and where we can make a difference.

It involves teaching our children about the joy that embracing diversity brings.

It’s a way of reaching out of ourselves and welcoming discourse with others about things of which we know little, or disagree.

When I did this with the houseless person who shared my home, I was amazed at how much I learned and how much I gained.

It’s a way of recognizing we each are a wonderful part of this melting pot and do, and can, make a difference.

We must!


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