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'I believe we are here to spread compassion and not hate. We are here to celebrate diversity and not fear it.'

I regularly ask my students, "Is there a point at which tolerance becomes as evil as intolerance?"

I also tell my students not to be knee-jerk liberals nor unthinking alt-righters, rather, they should be critical thinkers, applying reason and logic to their analysis of what is right and what is wrong.

In view of too numerous mass shootings and hate crimes, it is a loud, "Yes, there is such a point, and it was breached some time ago."

As an officer of the state, sworn to uphold the constitution of the state and country, as a military veteran, as a lifelong educator, and as the descendant of immigrant pioneers, I have to say that what is happening in our country today, promoted by xenophobic and misogynist leaders, is contrary to the values of my and our America. To not resist these forces, to remain silent, is to be culpable of what amounts to criminal behavior against children and families and innocent souls.

Marginalized Americans are being subjected to trauma and violence encouraged by national leaders. People asking for help are being treated inhumanly instead.

Immigration policy atrocities are only an example of the many policies that currently flaunt our American values.

Our Constitution guarantees that anyone who sets foot on U.S. land is entitled to due process of our laws. Illegal incarceration is not among our due processes.

Important contextually is to recognize that immigration is a global phenomenon — driven by the workforce needs in the hemispheric north and responded to by workers from the southern hemisphere. That is the reality that the U.S. must incorporate into its immigration policies.

While in the Oregon State Legislature, I regularly invited both Democrats and Republicans to join me in dialogue to consider reform of immigration policy that would be humane, just, fair and legal. The same critical thought needs to be given to the reduction of gun violence, climate change, and health care, education and job sustainability. These are the policy issues that we must not remain silent nor inactive about.

Fear drives the hate we see and the hate we do not see. And, as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said during his inaugural speech, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." That continues to be the case today. Our nation is strong, our values correct, and our future secure if we use our critical thinking skills to work together and not apart. All Americans must believe that. To doubt this truth is to be vulnerable.

We are here for a purpose, to leave the world a better place. I believe we are here to spread compassion and not hate. We are here to celebrate diversity and not fear it.

I hope you will share with me the knowledge that diversity is a generative concept and embrace the differences among us and resist attempts to divide our great nation. Most of all, be a thoughtful activist in your local politics and above all, become involved and vote in 2020.

Joseph Gallegos is director of the graduate program in social work for Pacific University's Eugene campus, commissioner on the Oregon Commission on Hispanic Affairs, professor emeritus at the University of Portland, and a former state representative from Hillsboro, serving from 2013 to 2016.


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