|Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2015 in Washington, DC.|
"If it doesn't hurt you or change your life in any way, why is it wrong?" I asked.
"I'm too old to change now," she said, and turned her attention to the magazine in her lap, cutting off the conversation.
For a moment, I studied her thinning grey hair, her face which had a few more wrinkles than mine. There weren't that many years between us and yet, I felt decades younger than her. At home, I told my husband about the encounter and asked, "Why do we accept change so easily? Why are we so different from this woman?"
He didn't have an answer either. Then, I saw Gloria Steinem interviewed on TV and she was asked what she felt her most important contribution was. She responded that she couldn't possibly know that since she was still active. "I am always future oriented," she said.
And that is the difference. My husband and I are still future oriented. Although we remember past events fondly and even recount them, our lives are not rooted there; we are still making new memories. We not only embrace change; we encourage it. The right of gay people to marry, adopt children, live and work without discrimination should have been a reality ages ago. Unlike Supreme Court Justice Scalia, I believe in Affirmative Action and feel African-Americans should have the right to an education at any college they chose.
I am not afraid of the Muslim people. I welcome Muslim settlement in our country and invite them to make their home here just like the Jewish immigrants, the Irish, the Italians, the Japanese, the Chinese. They want the same things that my grandparents wanted when they traveled across the ocean to a better life in this country.
I AM afraid of mentally ill white men who have access to as many guns as they want. And I must admit that I am afraid of the people who attend rallies for Donald Trump, who cheer him on, who believe the outrageous things he says. They are the woman in the waiting room, the people who stopped the buses filled with Mexican children last summer, the individuals who attempt to burn down mosques. They are living in the past, afraid of change and afraid of anything or anybody that encourages them to accept an inclusive future.
Now, instead of wondering why I am future oriented, why I can accept new ideas, I wonder why some people can't. I wonder if there is a way to help these people conquer their fear of change, to help them understand that change is how we grow, both as a person and as a nation. I want to tell them that we all benefit from accepting new ideas, new ways of doing things and, above all, new people.
We are enriched by each group of immigrants that enter our country. They are our future doctors, lawyers, writers, teachers, philosophers. In one or two generations, we won't even remember that they were once the new immigrants because, by that time there will be another group to take their place.
And now, I am wondering what I can do, what all of us can do to help people who can't accept a changing world, to embrace a new wave of immigrants to our country, to allow them to make us richer by introducing us to their culture and religion. Perhaps all we can do is speak up when we hear anti-gay slurs or hate speech against any race or religion. But we need to respond in some way; we cannot allow those people who are afraid of change or afraid of immigrants to shape the message of this country. We need to speak up, all of us who know how to look forward.
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