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Guest Opinion: Heal Arizona’s chasms

Our elections may be over, but one thing is for sure: Arizona remains politically divided, just as much of our country is. One party’s candidate may have won this or that senate or congressional race, but the split in how Arizonans view our future is as sharp as it was before the elections took place.

What politicians cannot mend is what our citizenry should see as our sacred responsibility to heal, if nothing else, for the benefit of future generations. Abraham Lincoln was simply paraphrasing the Bible and many other ancient texts of perennial wisdom when he elegantly stated that “a house divided cannot stand.”

It behooves us as citizens of the Grand Canyon State to take time to heal the divides in our communities that threaten to be deeper and more difficult to maneuver than the canyon itself. Yes, there are differences of opinion and of value among native and immigrant, faith-based and science-based, liberal and conservative, gay and straight, Spanish- and English-speaking. But our shared values and hopes for our children are much the same:

To live with dignity in a place free of violence and vitriol. To have the opportunity for a good education and a satisfying job with livable wages. To have access to the wide open spaces in our state that are as stunning as those found anywhere in the world. To break bread with others, honor our elders and nurture the best in our next generation. To be as free as possible from suffering, illness and chronic hardship.

Ironically, Arizona has been the nursery grounds for some of the most healing, culture-bridging social movements in American history. The right of any citizen to have access to clean drinking water was codified among our state’s earliest legislative actions. The Sanctuary Movement, which aided political refugees fleeing from other countries without in any way violating federal laws or universal human rights protocols. The Collaborative Conservation Movement, which emerged from the Malpai Borderlands Group in southeastern Arizona and the Diablo Trust in northern Arizona into a respectful dialogue between ranchers and environmentalists throughout the West. And the Local Foods Movement, which demonstrated that both rural and urban dwellers could rally around the notion of environmentally-friendly food production practices which could create new jobs and even new businesses while bringing our families fresh, nourishing food.

We need more of these efforts of good will, efforts where neighbors reach out to neighbors regardless of race, faith, ethnicity, language, profession or education level. We need to do so in a way that does not simply ignore or dismiss our differences of opinion, but honors them as the basis for dialogues that will help us forge more inclusive solutions to our problems.

I invite you to walk toward what Arizona rancher Bill McDonald dubbed as “the radical center” – to take the “middle path” on which we can see and listen to the views of others to the right and left of each of us.

That is my interfaith prayer for this holiday season. That is my hope for Arizona and America at large.


(Nabhan is an an Ecumenical Franciscan brother and author of the new book, “Food from the Radical Center: Healing Our Lands and Communities. He lives in Patagonia.)

This article is from Nogales International, – November 23, 2018


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