Your Voice: How can we move forward together?

Neighbors: 

Our one nation indivisible has become divided. Now is the time to mend, to move forward together.

When my husband and I moved to this community as newlyweds, we were looking for a place that was safe and welcoming. We certainly have a safe place here with Farmington Hills being the second safest community in Michigan. As an inter-faith couple, we also wanted to raise our future family in a place where diversity is welcomed and where all are included. Twenty-five years later, I still believe this describes our community.

People want to be welcomed and included, regardless of where we are different and where we are the same.

Today, we have tremendous diversity in our community. Our neighbors are people of all ages, faiths, and races. We speak 100 languages. We are affluent with our beautiful homes and we are financially struggling with over 20 percent of our students receiving free or reduced-cost breakfast and lunch. We are LGBT and we are straight. We are differently abled. We are also a community that votes, with nearly three-quarters of our registered voters casting ballots last week. Our politics are blue, red, green, and purple. Our preferred candidates won and our preferred candidates lost.

Sadly, in our nation, our state, our communities and our families, we are seeing an increase in behaviors that are less than welcoming. We have neighbors pitted against each other because of whose lawn sported which candidate’s yard signs and who voted for whom. We’ve seen news reports of middle school students taunting other students while chanting “build that wall.” I heard from parents about their high schoolers being bullied to tears because their candidate was not elected. Young people in the LGBT community are considering going back in the closet out of fear. People of color share feelings of being at greater risk. Last weekend, a man threatened to light on fire an observant Muslim woman unless she removed her hijab. I know observant Muslim women who are afraid to wear their hijab when they drive because their friends were harassed. I have also seen reports of individuals protesting election results, threatening violence against those who supported the other candidate.

In a country founded on freedoms, living in fear is never right.

This past week, we honored our veterans and the sacrifices they made. We owe it to them to exercise our freedoms they fought for in ways that do not trample the freedoms of others. Yes we certainly have a right to speak our mind. Protest if you are moved to do so. Hold rallies and gatherings. Ask questions and listen to understand. Make phone calls and write letters. Peaceably. Ensuring safety. However, just as we should not have to live in fear, we have no right to cause others to be afraid. We do not need to be disagreeable to disagree. We are still neighbors, part of the same whole.

How do we move forward together?

First, if you see something, say something. That’s what neighbors do. If you have a concern, call 911. It is better to call and have something not be a problem than to not call and miss something that was. If there are mental health concerns, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255 or see the resources at http://www.farmingtonsafe.com.

Second, make your support visible. After Brexit, people in the UK wore a safety pin to signify support for immigrants. Recently, a friend proposed we do something similar in the US as a sign of love and acceptance and kindness toward all, whether recent immigrant, life-long citizen or anywhere in-between.

Let’s make it visible that we want to move forward together, starting with our own actions. Wear a safety pin to let our neighbors know they are supported in a community that cares. That our diversity is welcomed and included here. That we are a safe individual who will support the rights of others, even if we do not see eye to eye. That no one is alone. Show that we, one by one yet together, are committed to using our safety pins to mend rifts in the fabric of our community so that we will truly be one nation. Indivisible. For all.

Theresa Rich was elected to the Farmington Hills City Council Member in 2015 and to the Oakland Schools Board of Education in 2010. The opinions expressed are her own and are not intended to represent the views of either the Farmington Hills City Council or the Oakland Schools Board of Education.

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