For days the news has been full of footage in which long columns of migrants, thousands of displaced people, surge forward, looking for asylum, seeking safety.
All along the way, local residents hand out water, tacos and encouragement to this so-called “migrant caravan” in the spirit of community and compassion for their tenacity and courage – while too many Americans are still fanning the flames of fear with the ugly rhetoric of hate.
The caravan reminds me of other causes, and other marches during my lifetime, with people marching together to say “no” to poverty and discrimination, like the 1960 civil rights marches, and marches supporting women, labor unions and gay rights.
We’ve seen the goose step of history trample on human rights, but today we hear the sound of sandals doggedly moving forward in search of a better life.
In a curious way, I see this caravan as a positive force, even though I fear the outcome and the likely confrontations to come. I also see it as reflecting what I value most here in Vermont … our strong sense of community, the power of commitment, the bond of inclusiveness.
Vermont has developed a culture of what you might call localvore values. In a recent example, political rivals played music together after a debate, in order to encourage civility in politics. For 30 years, a winter coat drive in the Capitol city has offered warmth to people in need. Restaurants and volunteers in towns throughout the state dish up turkey dinners and friendship during the holidays. A refugee community is welcomed in Burlington. A hunting state bucks the national political trend to consider reasonable gun control.
Our national debate is so full of rancor these days that it’s easy to give in to feelings of rage and despair – which means it’s more important than ever to find ways -- small ways, little steps -- to nurture civility and promote healing.
I’m reminded of a native American fable in which a grandfather tells his grandchild there are two wolves battling inside him. One is angry, violent and greedy. The other is compassionate and kind.
The child asks, “Which one will win?”
The grandfather replies, “The one I feed.”