I grew up in a town filled mostly with good "blue collar" folk. Many families made livings in construction or farming. My grandpa ran a successful livestock business for 50 years. My best friend's family had a dairy. Others had family fruit stands supplied by their own orchards. It was the community in which I was born and raised, and, despite my love of sequined clogging costumes, I was always proud of it.
After I graduated high school, however, my hometown started changing. Many of the farmers grew old and sold their land to real estate developers. Soon, there were far fewer orchards, and in their places, suburban communities with ironic names like, "The Orchards."
I was annoyed.
Some of it was because I have a general anger problem toward people cutting down trees. (I blame Ferngully.) But in a more general sense, I was upset because I didn't like how mowing down the farmland was changing my town.
I didn't like that now when it rained, the highway flooded because the mountainside had pavement instead of soil to absorb the moisture.
I didn't like that with all the new homes on the city water line, we could no longer wash the dishes and take a shower at the same time.
I didn't like that instead of the blue collar families I mentioned earlier, I heard more people at church speak about how "inspired" they were by poor people.
But maybe most of all, I didn't like that the great influx of citizens had no idea who my family was. My grandpa helped build the church many of them attended. My grandma was a member of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers. My mom played the organ at every funeral, ever. My father served on town councils and committees responsible for flood prevention. Not to mention I performed at the 4th of July pageant every year, people!!
I saw so much history around me, and none of the newbies seemed to care one bit that without it, they probably wouldn't have moved there.
Upon witnessing the recent political platforms spreading across these fine United States, I decided to take a long, hard look at what I find so displeasing in the way many have begun talking about immigrants or people different than themselves. Once I identified it, I looked within to see if I have any ounce of that myself. What I found was what you just read.
The hard truth is when change is thrust upon you, especially in an area where you feel ownership, like where you live, feelings of powerlessness and frustration arise from dealing with the consequences of decisions you had nothing to do with.
Similar feelings may result when parents announce baby #2 is on the way, or when children are forced to share their toys with others.
The problem is we're adults.
While my resentment about my hometown was real, it certainly wasn't meant to be literal. I don't want to keep people from populating the city I grew up in simply because I was there first. That's childish. If anything, my seniority only proves I can understand why others would want to experience it for themselves.
Yes, that means there's change, and change isn't easy. There are cultural shifts and new problems to solve. But that's when words like "compromise" and "working together" come into play. You know, the kind of stuff we learned in kindergarten.
As adults, we make these words happen by electing leaders to help facilitate them. That's why I hope my hometown officials can bring its citizens together, both old and new, to compassionately ensure a high quality of life for everyone. Did my hometown grow too big too fast? Maybe. But for heaven's sake, nobody needs to ban or kick anyone out, especially based on race, religion, or sexuality.
Comparatively speaking, I hope as a country we can elect leaders that first recognize the complex and nuanced issue of when and how individuals become US citizens. We can then hold those leaders accountable to creating a pathway that ensures everyone the high quality of life that has always made this country great.
It's not as easy as we'd prefer, but most things after preschool haven't been.
It was surprisingly difficult for to me admit my biased feelings toward the new neighbors, but I believe I've handled them like an adult. I invite everyone in this homeland I love so dearly to do the same.