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Nothing easy in today’s world

“We should not look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dearly bought experience.” George Washington

There comes a time when every writer suffers from writer’s block. And it is my belief that this malady is frequently not necessarily due to being unable to write, but rather not feeling as if one should actually write about what they might like. For instance, there are many topics that are simply “too hot” to write about at the time. Writing for the purpose of provoking thought or encouraging dialogue too often becomes misunderstood, and the writer becomes the target rather than the issue (this can be painful). For instance, if writers choose to write about some of the current issues of today, even if they are writing to provoke thought and encourage productive dialogue … should they? Stay with me as I continue this process. For instance …

… With the COVID pandemic there is much discussion as to whether or not one should wear a mask and practice social distancing. Should we remove the statues of President George Washington, the Father of our Country, because he owned slaves? Should we join with others as they march in protest of social injustice? Is silence on these issues’ cowardice? When should one speak out? When is the right time?

We have been shut-in, wearing masks, standing six feet away from others and generally been forced to change the way we live our lives and interact with friends since early March. Even though in our area we have seen fewer cases of the Coronavirus than in most other areas, there remain concerns with new cases continuing to surface. Our beaches have finally opened, and we can dine at our favorite restaurants, but with restrictions, but masks are still required when shopping or in public.

A more controversial issue is that of today’s race relations and our country’s history. How do we ensure equality for all if we don’t recognize the years of inequality and still preserve our country’s history? Therein lies the rub!

President Franklin Roosevelt said, “In these days of difficulty, we Americans everywhere must and shall choose the path of social justice … the path of faith, the path of hope, and the path of love toward our fellow man.” (12 out of our 44 presidents owned slaves, or over 25%.) Is removing statues and destroying monuments of our presidents the answer? Do we blow up Mount Rushmore?

We must remove the symbols of slavery from our public spaces, but we cannot erase our history in the process – we must learn from it. It is incumbent upon each of us today to recognize the injustices that our fellow Americans have endured due to the color of their skin and work together to bring changes that will ensure equality for all. Destroying and defacing statues will not change history; recognizing the flaws of our elected officials and learning from them is the answer.

Change is never easy, but positive change is needed. Violence, destruction of property and hiding our history by refusing to learn from it is not the answer. If we want a better world, then we have to be better in the way we approach our problems. We have to reflect in our manner what we expect of others. I’m not sure who said this, and I paraphrase here, but we have to be the change we want to see in others and in the world. I believe that!

Summer is here. We’ve all been limited as to social interactions for months, and it is easy to feel as if our country is imploding. It seems that all manner of promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has become nothing more than a dream, and the daily disillusions are almost overwhelming. But we can’t give up or give in. This is still the greatest country on earth. We owe it to ourselves, and more importantly to the future generations, to learn from our history … not destroy it … and ensure equality for all Americans regardless of the color of their skin.

Whether it is fatigue from COVID, distress over our country’s history, or a desire to march for a cause we believe in, we will survive if we work toward the good of all. In the words of Marcus Garvey, Black political activist, publisher and journalist, “The ends you serve that are selfish will take you no further than yourself but the ends you serve that are for all, in common, will take you into eternity.” There are no easy answers but what would life be without a few challenges?

Have a great day.

Vicki Westling is a Dunkirk resident

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