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We are a nation of immigrants and perspectives. From Ellis Island to the Embarcadero, we are unique in our circumstances but united in our desire to leave our children a better world than we found. We have been successful because E Pluribus Unum. Out of many, we are one.
Yet today, that unity is threatened. Many feel vulnerable or afraid. In the midst of this fear we are reminded to be tolerant of those who look different from us, think different from us.
Speaking at George Washington University in May, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker declared, “I’m tired of this call in our country for this idea of tolerance — that is not the aspiration ... We’re not called to be a tolerant nation. We’re called to be a nation of love.”
Tolerance is passive. Tolerance is comfortable. Tolerance is not enough.
But love, we remember, is the highest commandment. Love can bond a broken nation.
Love is an active verb.
Too often in this country, we look for the easy way out. We seek an HOV lane for everything: a faster iPhone, two windows at the drive-thru, self-checkout aisles at the drugstore. We don’t want to feel the pain or the discomfort that comes from confronting an issue or injustice.
Tolerance is passive. Tolerance is comfortable. Tolerance is not enough. But love, we remember, is the highest commandment.
Unfortunately, the path of least resistance leads to indifference. We are not immune to the reality of the world just because we ignore it. We are coming to the end of the presidency of a man who told us, “I am my brother’s keeper; I am my sister’s keeper.” Many of us have acted as though President Obama was supposed to keep our sisters and brothers for us.
No. Life is not that easy. Love is an active verb.
The fear of a Latino boy in Los Gatos affects us even if he isn’t our son. The bullying of a black girl in Buffalo affects us even if she isn’t our daughter. The anti-LGBTQ graffiti outside a school in Sarasota is wrong even if our kids don’t go there.
When the founders in Philadelphia wrote, “We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor,” they weren’t just talking about themselves. They were talking about an America that only works if our successes and our failures are shared and celebrated by all. Love is an active verb.
Maya Angelou wrote, “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
It is time to stand up and fight. Our great American experiment has always required citizens to work for what they believe in. Never before has that call been so clear.
Call your congressman or congresswoman. Go to town hall, PTA and school board meetings. Pick up trash on the beach. Volunteer. Sponsor families if you can. Do not let bigotry roam free by turning your back, confront it and respond. Talk about our common experiences. Talk about our differences. Ask, “Why?” Buy someone a beer. Buy them a ginger ale. Buy them a venti soy latte. And stop judging them for it. Smile. Say hello. These may seem like small acts, but it is in action that we find redemption — and love.
America endures not because each one of us is always right, but because we each have a dignity that cannot be dimmed. We are strong, we are tenacious and we are not taking our freedom for granted. We are not called to be a tolerant nation — we are called to be a nation where love is an active verb.
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