I’m an Alabamian – born and raised. I’ve lived 40 of my 53 years here. I want to be a proud Alabamian – a proud American.
Here’s what I know: The real people I interact with daily are, at their core, truly good people. We’re a community strongly grounded in a religious tradition that teaches us to be Christ-like. We believe in helping our friends and neighbors. I see evidence of compassion every day.
But very often, there seems to be a disconnect between that reality and our public stances. We continue to elect leaders who work against the interests of the people of Alabama. And who are we – the people of Alabama? The business leaders and civil servants who keep the wheels of our daily life turning? The health professionals and teachers who affect the lives of Alabamians every day? The dad who works two jobs but still earns less than it takes to support his family? The single mom who applies for government assistance and Medicaid because she knows her job in a fast-food restaurant will never be enough to support her kids? The laid-off middle-aged man who is guilty of getting sick while having no health insurance and is forced to file bankruptcy? The couple who risked everything to come to this country without documents because, despite having to live in constant fear, they’re safer and able to find work and make life livable? The Muslim family that treads lightly and lives quietly because they want to contribute, but they know they’re always just one small step away from being called out as the enemy? The young, transgender woman trying to honestly navigate her life in an openly hostile world?
Do all these people count? Or is there a bright line we draw that separates those who are worthy of our help and compassion from those who are not? Is there an even brighter line that separates those we see as the enemy, even though they’ve done us no harm? It seems we’re often eager to conclude that a person’s misfortune is somehow their fault, the result of some character flaw. Does that justify our lack of compassion for some?
So….who are we? What is our collective character as a state? As a country? Are we welcoming and Christ-like? Do we base our decisions and our actions on sound reasoning or on our dark, human impulses?
I believe we can be proud of this place we call home if we use the goodness that is in us….when we get past the notion that some of us have the right to designate others of us as unworthy. We must have leaders who embody that goodness. So to all the people who represent me, from Donald Trump down to Steven Waits, I’d like to say: I don’t want to taunt you with insults and accusations. I want to be heard and I want dialogue. I want you to demonstrate honesty and integrity and, yes, compassion. If you do not, I will work to replace you. I know I’m not alone.
Angela D. Smith