Sunday, November 22, 2015

Gratitude for a Diverse and Beautiful World

Last night I danced with my square dance club at the First Unitarian Society of Denver. There was a banner hanging in the hall that read, "Black Lives Matter". It had been hanging outside, but last week, the church was vandalized. Red paint was thrown on the banner and a window in the church door was broken. I'm glad the banner was still hanging in the church. The message was very powerful.

What's going on in our country? I wish I could say all this hate and bigotry was just some random crazy individuals, but then I read how some of the presidential candidates are responding to the Syrian refugees. Of course we know what happened in Paris was horrible. The refugees are running from this same horror - and there is no place to run to in their country.

Donald Trump suggests registering all American Muslims in a database. Jeb Bush says we should take in refugees, but only if they're Christian. Ted Cruz is even more emphatic, saying that accepting Muslim refugees would be "lunacy", but if Christians are being persecuted, we should be providing safe havens for them. Ben Carson compared Syrian refugees to rabid dogs. Mosques are being vandalized, human beings are being attacked and beaten because of the color of their skin, their religious beliefs, their sexual orientation.

Despite all this, I know the world is a beautiful place and there are so many good people everywhere. I was reminded the other night of how thankful I am that we are living in a large and diverse city. The more we get to know people, the less easy it is to hate. I love being able to know a lot of people from different backgrounds.

I'm encouraged, especially when I see people dealing with the issues of hate and bigotry in a positive way. My big shout out of THANKS for this Thanksgiving season go to:

The American Muslim comedians who work consciously to help bridge cultures with stories and laughter: Maz Jobrani, Maysoon Zayid, Ahmed Ahmed, Dean Obeidallah, Wonho Chung, Aron Kader and others. We had the privilege of seeing Maz Jobrani's show in Denver last week, reminding us that laughter is the universal language. It was amazing and I am already saving to go to his next show.

Governor Hickenlooper, here in Colorado, who has supported having Syrian refugees in Colorado. Please, Gov! Keep standing up for the refugees.

President Obama - I am so proud of our president.  He is standing up for what is right.

Thirty-three years ago, during the Ethiopian civil war, my husband and I sponsored a young Muslim refugee to come to the US. Elias stayed with us until he had a job and could afford to move into an apartment with some friends. It was fun! Elias was in his early 20's. He enjoyed TV, especially Wonder Woman. He tried to teach me how to cook Ethiopian food and I tried to teach him how to make pancakes. He taught us some of his language. Our lives are richer for having him with us for those brief few months.

There will always be people who will promote hate and violence. We have plenty of those in our country right now. The scariest violent people are religious extremists - it doesn't matter what religion - because how do you counter the "God says" argument? The violence which has happened in France, in Beirut, in Baghdad was horrible. The possibility this could happen elsewhere is real. It doesn't let us off the hook. The only way to defeat terrorism is to show the terrorists we are bigger than they are, there are more of us who believe in compassion than fear.

I'm grateful our president knows this.

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