It’s Our Country, Continued
by Suzi Steffen
Some of the local community activists and people we talked to didn’t get the chance to respond before the deadline for our 7/5 cover story, It’s Our Country Too. And other folks have written in since reading in the Slant last week that we’re looking for more answers (and we’re still looking—go ahead, email your answers to our questions to firstname.lastname@example.org). Here are a few more:
Patricia Cortez works at the Amigos Multicultural Services Center. She says about her background:
I have lived in North America half of my life. I have worked with Latino population for over 18 years and with youth for over eight. I am the coordinator for Juventud FACETA, a youth program of Amigos Multicultural Services Center, where I have volunteered since 1997.
Tell me one or two things (people, historical movements or documents, etc.) that you admire in or about the United States.
The City [of Eugene’s] resolution to respect the rights of all citizens in Eugene, without regard of immigrant status. Natural wonders: I love Yosemite National Park in California. Leaders I have a lot of admiration for are Rosa Parks and Cesar Chavez.
What makes you hopeful about the country right now?
This is a tough question because there are a series of realities that have affected me, such as 9/11, the pass of the REAL ID Act, the war the U.S. is supporting. These facts cannot be ignored when answering your question. I hope that todos los imigrantes puedan vivir en paz. I feel hopeful to witness the active participation that immigrant youth have provided to the community for the last four years. I feel hopeful that many non-Latinos are genuinely concerned about the impact to families of raids in Portland and want to know the struggles that lack of documents brings for families and how they impact people. I feel hopeful because the community is committed to the issue.
How are you participating in making the U.S. a better place to live?
At the individual level, I participate in caucus and communicate with the City Council, Human Rights Commission, State representatives, and members of Congress. For instance, we go in delegations to Washington, D.C. and talk to the government about comprehensive immigration reform. As a community organizer, I publicly speak on immigration, youth and human rights. We have organized two community forums this year to inform the community about immigration rights. And I have spoken publicly on that. I have facilitated discussion. And currently, we are preparing another [community discussion] for August and a following one for September. Nationally, I am a member of a coalition that is pro immigrants’ rights. Beyond my volunteer work, I am a mental health provider and I offer services to families.
If you had an unlimited supply of money and/or time to tackle one
problem, what would it be and what would you do?
The idealistic idea is la pobreza, porque es la culpable the muchos otros problemas para cualquier comunidad. Raise the federal minimun wage and then the state minimun wage, offer free health care and education, assist other countries to become prosperous too, end wars and create jobs.
Magi Hart writes to us:
Since the Iraq Invasion, I frequently stand on street corners holding my Support Our Troops: Bring Them Home Now sign.
In an effort to heal the world I write people in power and plead with them not to support the war.
I listen to BBC and NPR, read all of the newspaper and then have long talks with my grandchildren about questioning, about being part of positive change.
An old pleaure of taking buying sprees ended. I support small business and on learning about the meat packing business have become a pseudo vegetarian, rare chicken and fish.
I attend ‘Green’ events and participate in conferences.
To present as a role model for my grandchildren I ditched the TV years ago, am always seen with a book in my hands and grow veggies in my small plot. I pray to GOD to end the war, cure the AIDS and help those in need. Retired, impaired mobility prevents me from climbing the highest mountain and shouting: STOP!
Vincent Pablico writes:
Since I’m on disability there is a lot I can’t do. But I find places to make a difference. You might see me pulling weeds along some church driveway or public building. You may come across the marigolds, the little white flowers, the tomatoes or strawberries that I plant throughout Eugene.
At present I am homeless but in an effort to not be a burden I pick up garbage on the street as I come across it. I have a care dog and often businesses don’t understand that my dog is licensed to go in stores with me. To avoid friction I don’t argue, I obey laws and I work at making a difference with my forgiving smile.
I am tolerant of people different from me. I am grateful for having a car and I offer homeless people a ride to the food bank, a medical clinic, some appointment. If you ask me a question, I try to provide an answer. I read my Bible every day and try to learn something new from it.
I respect the caregivers that try to make a difference in my life. I try to give the world good.
And Dorothy H.Bucher inspires us with this letter:
Thanks for asking us what we’re trying to do locally to improve our community.I do not really like a lot of publicity, but here goes anyhow. Just to encourage others who think they can’t really accomplish anything.I thought that, too.
The important thing is not,”Can you accomplish stuff?” It is, “You must TRY to do it.”
Why is that more important? Trying very hard,even for disabled or elderly people, who THINK they can’t do much to help, will excercise your strength-of-will muscles. If you do not exercise a muscle (of any kind), you will not develop strength in it. Any weightlifter knows this.
Therefore, for many of us in the U.S. and locally who see being able to affect our community govt. or environment as futile because “you can’t fight city hall,”and the developers and planners are too big and powerful, it is even more important that we flex those weak muscles of willpower and determination and attempt to join community groups to help each other.
Just the act of trying will make a person stronger.Even if you lose the fight, the action of trying does affect the world at large. Often we cannot see it. But any science expert will tell you that (weak physics here) “any action results in an opposite reaction” — even if the exact goal is not reached.
In philosophical terms, it is the old wisdom of Everything that you do affects someone and something else.No matter how small the effect.” That old truth is often overridden in modern times by the belief that “if you are not powerful enough to accomplish the goal, your actions are futile, do not bother trying.”
Look at the history of the United States. A ragged army of colonists, hungry, desperate underdogs, wrested their country from the hands of the British even as many of them died in the attempt. What if they had said, “The British army and govt. is too powerful; we will not try to do it”?
Many colonists did say that .But the colonists who did fight considered that living in the British dictatorship,under those bad conditions without freedom was worse than trying and failing anyhow.
Accepting the idea that you cannot fight and try is a debilitating concept for a human being. Any human being. It is accepting powerlessness.The concept that since you cannot win for sure, that you must not fight,destroys the internal will and determination and spirit of the human being.
That is the message that I am asking you to publish in this article. Not that we can win when we fight for causes, but that we must fight, try and be as determined as we can,even in the face of City Hall or outrageous powers that threaten to overwhelm our community,environment or our personal freedoms.
If traffic congestion and city planners and huge companies and govts. are screwing up our community, we must try to fight them anyhow,no matter if we are elderly, or feel that we are not the powerful ones.
I have a tip for you: The only way that you become strong is to take a determined attitude and flex those muscles and that will, and you will get stronger. I guarantee it. As a person who once felt very powerless (and I’m a pretty crippled up boomer), even as a very politically and financially unimportant person, through fighting those “futile” personal and life battles,even losing some,I still have become very strong inside.
I will go even further and state that the main reason we were put on earth is this: not to win, but to fight the battle as hard as we can. Even in the face of certain failure.The weaker you are and the more powerless you are, the more determined you must become and the harder you must try, even harder than strong people. Even if you have to get angry to get yourself to do something.
That is the message I want to give those who believe they are not able to change things or help their community because they are not influential or powerful. DO IT ANYWAY. Do whatever you can, help however you can, no matter how small. Whatever you do to help will have some good effect, much more than being passive.
And, at the end of the day, you will respect yourself. Self-respect is very hard to achieve in a huge industrial society, where we all get turned into cogs in the machine and left on hold. Many of us seniors are also told that we are no longer important or powerful because we are no longer working and “we are not of this era.” You do not have to accept that.
Those are the reasons you must try to help your community — even if you are a senior, feel you are not able to affect much or do much,or that your cause cannot win. As the philosopher Erasmus said,”The point is not to win the battle; the point is to fight the battle, even as you die fighting.”