Editor’s note: The following is a response to John Brannon’s column “So much kindness — and then there’s the exception” in the Jan. 9 Cambrian.
I am angry, mostly at myself. Who isn’t racist, really. We’re all bathed in the culture in which we live, and we’re influenced by it. And we affect it by our beliefs. I’m angry at myself for not living my beliefs better: the beliefs that we are all are one human family, all coming from one Creator, living and breathing on one common Earth. No, I don’t have the power to stop all bullying, but I can encourage like-minded people to stand up and speak up if racist or bullying behavior is seen or heard.
And: I am taken aback by the racist attacks in our own small town. When a mother is afraid to take her baby for a walk, something is wrong. Very wrong.
OK, I’m taking this personally. Because it is personal. We’re all a mixture of races and nationalities — and depending on where we are in the world, it could be our child, mother, wife, father, or husband who is frightened.
Yes, it is personal. We all breathe the same air, drink the same water, come into existence the same way, and leave this world pretty much the same way. We all want adequate food, shelter, clothing, education, and a chance to move forward in our lives. And a good life for our children. And we all go back into the same earth one way or another.
So what is personal? I say fear is very, very personal. And so is a mother’s desire to protect her child — and a father’s to protect his family, for that matter.
We had our children in the early 80s. I prayed then that racism and war would be at least be on the wane (if not over) by the time they were grown. Has it? I prayed that our son (or daughter) would never have to go to war. My grandfathers, father, uncles, brothers, and husband were all sent to war zones, and our family is still affected by that culture.
The culture of war is against nature. Life wants to live, and life does what it can to survive. And yet. And yet. The world is inflamed with hatred for people of other races, believe systems, lifestyles, and nationalities.
People are suffering, dying, displaced because of that mistaken belief that somehow the other person is different and to be feared. Because I believe that fear is also at the base of all bullying/warlike behaviors. Who knows what happened to those bullies as children themselves. Maybe they were bullied. But by the time we come of age, it’s time to take responsibility for our beliefs and actions. Aligning them with reality would be a good start.
The world is raging with wars. They haven’t hit our country yet, except in pockets reserved for “the others.” But my strong conviction is that if we don’t address this problem of racism, and take positive steps to solve it very soon, any street of any town or countryside could be places of terror. In fact, it seems to be happening more and more often, even in places heretofore deemed safe.
There are many issues to be resolved: gun control; bullying behaviors; thoughts, words, and actions of all of us one toward another; huge disparity between the rich and the poor. Drug and alcohol abuse. Maybe they all contribute to racist behaviors.
But we can start with one person, one act, today. That person is me/us, that action is mine/ours, and there is no time to lose. Just resolve to cause no harm. If each person did one act of just plain kindness per day — or even just neutral acts, or honest but respectful disagreements — things could get better.
Who doesn’t want a better world to live in, to leave for our children, to give as a legacy for the future of this beautiful planet? What can we do today to begin that process?
For awhile now, I’ve felt that all anger is harmful. But now I remember what I have believed in the past, that sometimes anger against injustice can promote positive, healing actions/changes.
Will we rise to the occasion?
Nancy Vincent Zinke is a longtime resident of Cambria.