We who love freedom and respect for human rights have different ways of reacting to the terrible events in Paris and San Bernardino in recent months.
We can react with pain, grief, horror and anger toward the people who carried out these attacks on innocent human beings.
We can feel compassion toward the victims. We can act with firm resolve to tighten our defenses against future assaults. We can vow to pursue the culprits wherever they hide.
All of these responses are appropriate for a free people in a democratic republic.
Other responses are not appropriate: indiscriminate hatred and violence, racism, religious intolerance and a willingness to surrender the very freedoms we are trying to protect.
I won’t specifically address some of the recent positions taken by political figures who embrace bigotry as public policy. But it’s worthwhile to note how these same individuals can be counted among the most dangerous opponents of Unions.
Unions, after all, embrace the idea of regular, “ordinary” people putting aside their differences and working toward a common goal: a better future where all of us can raise a family, own a home, send our kids to good schools and have respect in the workplace.
Unions have the critical role of making sure the working people get a fair share of the wealth they create for their employers.
When Unions are strong, we have a strong middle class. When Unions are under siege, as they are now in many states, we have a middle class in decline.
Those who oppose Unions say they act in the name of freedom and opportunity, but somehow the beneficiaries of their actions are always the wealthiest individuals and corporations in the land.
Why do Americans put up with this?
The simple but true answer is fear. For centuries, political leaders have used fear of others as a means to keep the citizenry in line.
In the past those “others” have been Jews, Catholics, Chinese immigrants, African Americans, hippies and “welfare queens.” More recently, they have been Latino immigrants.
Now a new “other” has been discovered: refugees from a horrible war thousands of miles away.
Of course we need to be vigilant, but vigilance doesn’t necessarily mean hating all those who profess a certain religion and entering their names into a government database. And it doesn’t mean turning our backs on people who are suffering.
The opposites of fear and hate are courage and love. These are the values of a healthy and growing society. These are the values we need to nurture and protect, even as we are vigilant against those who reject those values.
Our way is stronger than theirs. We will prevail.
As we pursue our hopes and dreams in the year ahead, let’s practice more courage and love. Cherish those who are close to you and be compassionate toward those who are far away and “different.”
The struggle for a better world begins within us.