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Carrie Carney: Americans must unite, reject hateful rhetoric

I do not want to become a person who is “all talk.” I was raised to be a “verb,” a person with actions. I refuse to become bitter, ignorant or racist. I want to remain caring, cultured, accepting and, most importantly, a God-loving American.

I grew up in a time when streets were boundaries for us. My best friend and I met each other at a halfway point; I wasn’t to cross over in her neighborhood, nor she mine. Luckily, we both were brought up in loving homes with no prejudice and we, without hesitation, crossed the borders that divided us. We saw in each other friendship, not color. We remain best friends and we have never let the ignorance of others divide us.

Lately I am again feeling that racial tension that I felt in grammar school. I’m feeling that segregation we Americans worked so hard to put behind us.

I don’t know how it feels to be African-American, Muslim, Jewish, etc. I do know how it feels to be profiled and ridiculed. I am of Polish descent, so I’ve heard all the dumb Polish jokes I can stomach. They are not funny; they are offensive. But people feel inclined to tell me them because I guess we Polish people are so dumb we like to be humiliated. I am also a tall, blonde woman, and I’ve heard all the dumb blonde jokes I can tolerate. I’m an educated, articulate woman. Why does this shock people?

Why are we discriminating and fighting with one another when our country is being attacked? Why are we taking 10 steps backward when so many have lost their lives fighting for our equality? We should be uniting, protecting one another. We should be actively exhibiting solidarity. We should show these hatemongers that we are a force to be reckoned with.

One of our current social media campaigns is “Black Lives Matter.” Indeed, they do. My husband heard me say, “I’m going to buy a shirt that says, ‘My Life Matters.’ ” He replied, “All lives matter, and by saying my only divides us more.” He is absolutely right.

Last year he was campaigning to maintain his seat in City Court. On the campaign trail, we stopped at churches throughout Buffalo’s East Side. I was raised National Catholic, much like a Roman Catholic. Our Masses are very solemn and quiet, and are that way for reflection. To my surprise, I experienced some of the best services in my life. We were greeted by the warmest people I had the pleasure of meeting. Strangers hugged me and filled my heart with love, warmth and acceptance.

The services were invigorating, crowd-participating and fun. I looked forward to church for the first time in my life. I am not insulting or desecrating my religious upbringing, I’m simply expressing how wonderful these other churches were. We’re all praying to a higher power. All our sermons are teaching us to love one another. So I ask, “Why can’t we accept and embrace one another all the time, no matter our race or religion?” Why only on Sunday?

We need to step back for a minute and remind ourselves that we are all God’s children. We all have suffered loss and sorrow at some point in our lives. We are strong, resilient Americans. Let’s unite and show these hatemongers that we will not tolerate their rhetoric that divides and discriminates, that we will not fall victim to that type of hatred. That we, and our country, are invincible!

Maybe then we will not be such an easy target for another attack on our nation.