Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Digging past the lies surrounding politics in a search for acceptance

I come from a red state: one for which most of the stereotypes regarding red states hold true: and since freshman year, I’ve had the opportunity to watch myself change. Most Whitman students come from Washington, Oregon and California, at least as far as I could discern when I first arrived here, and having once hailed from Portland, I was sure I would be among them in my ways of thinking.
That has not been the case. Coming from where I have has had a profound effect on how I look out at the world. Being born and raised in a place does not mean that I am permanently attuned to its social or psychological climate. On the contrary, I’ve come to accept that I have developed habits and opinions that have their origins in the place I now call home: Boise, Idaho.

Some summers ago, I traveled north to a small resort town, McCall, where I worked for the University of Idaho. In my “off” days, I did chores for my grandparents, with whom I was living during my stay. One weekend, my grandfather took me with him to pick up a cord of firewood from a local who was selling the stuff on the cheap. The merchant’s first words to us when we arrived: “Them spics send you?”

Valley County, like many places here in the West, has in recent years seen an influx of Hispanic immigrants. In McCall, they are employed in the maintenance and construction of the year-round resorts. It was getting late in the summer when I met the local wood merchant, and by then I had become acclimated to the general demeanor of McCall. I wasn’t even surprised when the wood merchant said what he said: I, too, am terrified of outsiders and uncontrolled growth.

Liberals and conservatives alike overuse their arguments on the issue of immigration. Those who advocate amnesty for illegal immigrants understate the potential economic, social and political effects of their being here. At the same time, those who would advocate building a concrete wall around the U.S.-Mexico border understate the potential cost of not having a source of cheap labor.
The issue of immigration is coming to a head, and being simultaneously from Walla Walla, Wash. and Boise, Idaho has shown me the conflict brewing here in America and in myself. I’ve mentioned my own xenophobia, and I believe that every person harbors at least a little prejudice. The problem is that most of us never see our prejudices in relief: there are even a few among us who claim to have no prejudices.

I believe a person’s opinions are some of the most important aspects of their personality, being a unique combination of experience, intuition and rationality.

The wood merchant in McCall, Idaho has seen his world change from a small farming community near a lakeside town into a much more populous and diverse place in contrast to what it was. Is it so unreasonable, then, to begrudge an uneducated man his opinions, based on his experience and intuition? He may not speak our language, or use our politically correct terminology, but his world is changing rapidly, and like all people, he is reacting to the new climate.

I live by the words of Dr. Gregory House: “Everybody lies”: not that I literally believe that everybody lies (I’m sure there are people who really don’t lie), but because I believe that everybody hides inside of them some small ugliness, some conceit or presumption, that has snuck into a shaded corner of their soul. Seeking out and confronting that ugliness is part of becoming a mature person; knowing that we may never rid ourselves of it may be one of life’s important realizations; and learning how to love others not by ignoring their faults or distinctions from ourselves, but by accepting and understanding those faults and distinctions is one of the greatest intimacies we can share.

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