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We would all do well to listen to our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, at this point in our history. In his first Inaugural Address he tried to remind Americans, “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched by the better angels of our nature.”
He was struggling to keep the union together. We are reeling from a different strain – the discords of a long, dreadful election process that saw the vilification of large segments of our population. And ultimately ended with the popular vote winner not becoming President despite winning by a substantial margin. Surely we can all understand the pain of this dysfunctional conundrum of our democracy.
Local government is uniquely positioned to help cope with the fallout. In the heart of things we are all neighbors. That’s why local government is non-partisan. Our children go to school together and play on the same teams. We see each other at the store and at our places of worship. We help out when neighbors are sick or their pets need to be fed. When calls for assistance go out, we don’t check party affiliation; we respond with humanity.
Children are least equipped to deal with challenges of the conversations they heard over the last 18 months. A school principal stepped up after a child came home and asked mom if we are going to be kicked out of the country as another student told her at school. He sent out a voicemail to all parents reminding them that all children are welcome on campus, school is not a place for hate, bullying will not be tolerated, and children who are afraid as a result of the election will be supported.
This is a great model for other schools and districts to reassure parents and children that they are safe at school after the hateful messages that became commonplace during the election.
Local law enforcement leaders could reassure the immigrant community that they do not enforce immigration law, that is the responsibility of the Federal government, not local police. They could pledge that they will continue patrolling and protecting immigrant members of the community equally from threats to their safety.
We would welcome similar assurances by civic and law enforcement leaders regarding protection of Muslims who were the targets of suggestions to register them all, keep them out of the US, and put extra patrols in the neighborhoods where they live. We remember that dark time when, only because of their Japanese heritage, Japanese Americans were rounded up and forced into Internment Camps.
We thank that school principal, and others, who have shown us a better way.
Such assurances can allay some of the legitimate fear and anxiety many are feeling.
When we listen to the “better angels of our nature” we will hear that many people who are our neighbors are frightened. Local leaders have the power to address this in a caring and reassuring way. We must remember, as President Kennedy wrote, we are “A Nation of Immigrants.”
Lynn Daucher, Former Assemblymember
Bev Perry, Former Brea Mayor
Claire Schlotterbeck, Direct Descendant of one of America’s First (immigrant) Families at Jamestown, Virginia
Rusty Kennedy, Executive Director, OC Human Relations
Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.
Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue or others please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at TSears@voiceofoc.org