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Lesson for our leaders, and for us

Karel Ancona-Henry
For the Appeal

Race, gender, religion, war and politics.It seems we’ve come to a place in our history where all of these different issues are colliding.

Frankly, the impact its had on me is wanting to throw my hands in the air and run screaming from the building.

Contrary to what our president says or what the British secretary of defense says, Iraq is a mess. How do we make it a workable situation? I have no idea.

But at the end of the day, we can’t want peace and democracy (whatever that means) for the Iraqi people more than they want it for themselves.

Why are Americans still more afraid of a powerful woman than they are of a mixed-race man or a white male espousing more of the same views that have run this nation into the ground the past almost eight years?

I don’t get that either.

For being such a “free” and “evolved” democracy, it seems we’re really not. We just like to think we are.

As far as the flack brought on the past two weeks thanks to Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s sermons, I am very conflicted.

First, I do agree that our nation’s arrogance in international affairs did help to create the heartache and ugliness of Sept. 11.

Unfortunately, Americans tend to forget who their bedfellows were 30 years ago.

We (meaning our government) switch allegiance with whatever and whomever will most benefit our (or big corporations’) economic interests.

War is about money. We simply assign all these other qualities to it so that we can say our children are risking their lives for a higher purpose. Dying for democracy and freedom is far more palatable than dying for oil, for instance.

But after watching, reading, reflecting on this issue, I have arrived at a simple conclusion.

If my “spiritual adviser” were espousing a belief based in hate, even though I understand how the past relates to the future, I wouldn’t have that person as my “spiritual adviser.”

Pretty straight forward.

What it does bring to the forefront though, is how angry people still are about the history of this nation.

But as an “Italian, Bohemian, Spanish, Irish, German, Native American,” (perhaps we should let lose of these segregating labels for starters), most of my relatives came here long after the slavery issue was settled. And, in my own family experience, there was the issue of not-so-nice mistreatment.

How long should we carry that with us? How long does it live as the reason for staying separate from one another, or for being the cause of a nation’s ills, or the reason for making poor decisions?

In my reality, my interactions with people of diversity have always been positive.

I was not one of those white children being ganged up on at school by blacks, which, during the 1960s integration movement, was often the upshot. Especially in big cities.

The civil rights movement and white resistance to change created a volatile time. Many of those now white, middle-aged people have brought their prejudices through their lives with them. As have African-Americans in the same age group. Perhaps both sides have valid feelings brought on by their experiences.

Why is it that some folks think hanging nooses around a school campus would today be acceptable behavior.

That does not mean I have to agree with it and frankly, while I can understand it from a logical point of view, I wonder why we’ve not been able to get past it.

This is an unfortunate part of the legacy born of that time.

Many years ago, my then boyfriend was working in Washington, D.C. on the Eddie Murphy movie, “The Distinguished Gentleman.”

Kim would call me upset at the end of a day to explain how difficult it was working on the set because of the “reverse discrimination,” fostered by the movie’s leading man.

“Discrimination is discrimination,” I would say. “There is no reverse and any of us can engage in it, if we choose.”

I still believe that.

Discrimination grows from our fears. Fear of race, gender, religion, politics, sexual orientation. Fear of losing our power or that which we perceive as our vested interest in any manner of situations. Fear of that which does not look like or is not common to our own experience. It has created its own kind of war right here at home.

If we can’t find a way to create peace, freedom, understanding and a nation without discrimination right here, how can we expect to build it anywhere else?

Our leaders, be they political, religious or spiritual, must be the standard bearers for where we want us to be as a nation.

It is up to each of us to demand accountability.

Happy spring and a blessed Easter.

• Karel C. Ancona-Henry is a Dayton resident and can be reached at 246-4000.