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In the Capital City Weekly, I prefer to focus on the diverse, vibrant people contributing to the arts, cultures and communities of Southeast Alaska than to offer my own opinion, which is why I do not write many columns.
Letter from the editor: On living our values 020117 AE 1 Capital City Weekly In the Capital City Weekly, I prefer to focus on the diverse, vibrant people contributing to the arts, cultures and communities of Southeast Alaska than to offer my own opinion, which is why I do not write many columns.

Mary Catharine Martin

Iraq war veteran Gerald Mayeda Jr., right, and Vietnam War veteran John Dunker, left, met at the rally in support of immigrants and refugees Jan. 30. "I put myself in the place of people wanting to get out of a wartorn place," Dunker said. "Just looking for a better life, or getting to safety. I respect that tradition in America and I want to preserve it - being welcoming."

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Story last updated at 2/4/2017 - 4:48 pm

Letter from the editor: On living our values

In the Capital City Weekly, I prefer to focus on the diverse, vibrant people contributing to the arts, cultures and communities of Southeast Alaska than to offer my own opinion, which is why I do not write many columns.
I also try to keep this space free of what is divisive. We are already so divided as a country; we need things we can rally around. We need things that can unify us.
Here’s the thing: the lines inscribed on the Statue of Liberty read “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” It saddens me greatly that for so many of my fellow Americans these words, and their power, no longer seem to resonate. In this moment of American history, I cannot not say something.
There is so much that is good about America. It’s why people want to come here. Freedom of the press, and of speech. Democracy. Freedom of religion. Public education. Innovation. Our very ideals, even if we fail to live up to them, which we have a history of doing.
America fell short of its ideals in the slaughter, oppression and cultural repression of hundreds of American Indian and Alaska Native peoples and cultures, all across this continent. It fell short in slavery and the persistent legacy of Jim Crow and institutional racism. It fell short with Japanese internment. It fell short with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and with all the refugees America turned away that later ended up dying in concentration camps during World War II.
In spite of its failures, mainstream America thinks of itself as “good.” If we are to persist in this belief, we must keep our actions in line with our ideals.
For the last year, we’ve been flooded with news of the Syrian refugee crisis. Young children washing up dead on beaches, or buried alive and pulled, bloodied, from the rubble of their homes in Aleppo. Hundreds of thousands of people fleeing chaos and the very real threat of death.
I know and care about some Americans who supported the man instituting policies I believe are deeply un-American, and which I personally find abhorrent.
It’s easy to look back on history and say “I would have acted.” But history is always happening. Yes, “no one has been killed in the United States in a terrorist attack by anyone who emigrated from or whose parents emigrated from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, the seven countries targeted in the order’s 120-day visa ban,” according to the New York Times. And the seven countries President Donald Trump banned are seven countries with which he has no business ties. He did not ban any Middle Eastern countries — Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates or Turkey — with which he does.
Those are important facts, and should give anyone supporting these discriminatory policies pause. But the deeper question is what kind of country, and what kind of people, we are. I recently read an article in which Pope Francis said “You cannot be a Christian without living like a Christian… it’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty.”
No matter your religious background or lack of it, the Pope’s words resonate: our actions should always match our belief about ourselves, as individual people or as a country. This, right now, is a real opportunity to create a better history for our children to learn about — a history in which America’s actions match its perception of itself.
I’m heartened by the Southeast Alaskans I see making modern-day history, some of which is included in this week’s Capital City Weekly. There’s Katie Bausler’s column on the women’s march in DC, to which she traveled. There’s Brooke Elgie in Tenakee Springs, who writes the column “My Corner of Alaska,” and offers some thoughts on “reality.” And I took photos of an event organized by Jill Weitz and Dan Kirkwood on the Capitol steps, supporting refugees and immigrants. The group collected 166 signatures asking Gov. Walker to denounce the ban.
If we Americans are to think of ourselves as good people, we must act like it. We must help, and welcome, those in need. We must treat others as we’d like to be treated.
— Mary Catharine Martin, Capital City Weekly managing editor