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2017 Writing Department Contest

"The Watchlist has its eyes on you"

Fighting for our place at the table

By Carmen Liberatore

During the President Donald Trump's first 100 days in office, he has sparked debates, conversations and the biggest march in U.S. history. His first actions as president have left many of us feeling disappointed, fearful, anxious, angry and even more divided. But we are also confused.

All of us, immigrants and natives alike, voted for what we believed in back in November. Our end goals are pretty similar, aren’t they? We want a future where everyone has a safe place to live and to create a happy life for ourselves. We voted for prosperity, for peace and for a safe place to raise our children. Each of us voted for leaders who we believed could do that.

However, we have different ideas of how to obtain this goal. This has resulted in more feelings of divisiveness than ever before. But do not despair, this is the crucial time when we, as a collective nation, must take a deep breath and consider what it means to be an American.

Think of this nation as a dinner table. There are quite a lot of guests invited, and many of them are from different cultures, religious and spiritual beliefs, backgrounds and experiences. We are all given an invitation to this dinner and are asked to bring a dish — some guests bring dal, enchiladas, brisket, pasta, pho, injera, shepherd’s pie, nigiri, goulash, spätzle and countless other flavors, textures and spices. Some of us are vegetarian or vegan, some of us are gluten-free, some are picky eaters, and some of us don’t mind at all what we eat. We are from all walks of life and from different socioeconomic statuses, yet we humbly come together to eat, drink and talk. We exchange ideas, crack jokes and enjoy one another’s company. We try some dishes we’ve never had before, and perhaps learn a few words in a new language. All of us are equal, and all of us are respectful and kind.

But there are some people who would like to create a more elite dinner party. They want to eat the food they are familiar with and discuss ideas they all agree on. They want to revoke your invitation — to not let you sit at the table. They are afraid of change. As a nation, we must show them that not all change is scary or wrong. We must fight for our equal places at the table. We must continue to defend our right to sit together as equals, exchange ideas and be nourished by one another. The very basis of this nation depends on the harmony of the people and cultures living within it. When one rises above the rest and tries to deny rights to the rest, something is wrong. However, when something goes wrong, we should not taunt, tease or name call. We must treat one another with compassion.

As a young person growing up in today’s America, I see a lot of hate and not much kindness. I see people who are quick to anger and eager to hurl insults at the opposition. I have noticed a lot of assumption and not much understanding. I have observed a lot of talking and not much listening. I see people pointing fingers, calling names and getting angry. I hear people so caught up in an “us versus them” mentality that they fail to realize that all of us have the same goal.

This is not the kind of place I want to live in. As the eruption of fear and hate grows, I want to introduce a new kind of outbreak. I want to see an epidemic of compassion. I want to see people dig deep and really try to understand one another. Perhaps someone is angry because they have a deeply-rooted fear of change. Maybe someone depends on religion because that’s the only way they can make sense of life. Perhaps someone else is just trying to find a safe place to call home. And someone else is possibly having a really bad day and just needs a win.

Whatever the reason, I challenge you, reader, to try to empathize with someone today. Understand why they feel what they feel and why they act the way they act. After today, I challenge you again tomorrow, and the day after. I challenge you to live the rest of your life in kindness to your fellow humans. I challenge you to slow down and show the world some compassion.