Villagers don’t need to apologize for a few bigots

To the Editor:

I write as a pastor of 28 years and retired Navy Reserve Chaplain of 25 years.  I’m a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. This letter is in response to the disturbing video showing a shouting match between a few pro and anti-trump folks back in mid-June at Lake Sumter Landing at The Villages.
That was such an unfortunate event.  It was unfortunate because shouting matches and the use of inappropriate language to hurl insults on others is such a waste of energy.  It’s also unfortunate because I believe one doesn’t fight hate with hate. One fights hate with love. Sounds corny — but true.
The absolute and overwhelming majority of residents of The Villages are good and honorable Americans. So, no resident of The Villages needs to apologize to anyone for the few bigots living among us as in every great town and city in America. After a while, doing that gets tiring.
Racism is a virus that lies within all of us. And the best way to diminish its potency is to engage in simple “graceful” acts.  Among many, let me offer a few.  Engage in honest conversation on injustice with folks who look way different than you do.  Invite to lunch a person of color so they can share what racism looks to them — while you simply listen. Stop laughing at racist jokes. They’re not funny.  Volunteer at the local soup kitchen.  Tutor a child of color for an hour a week. Remind yourself the color of your skin doesn’t make you the center of the universe.
Finally, for those who claim to follow Jesus’ life as the core of their religious faith, I remind you that to follow him is to embrace his noblest of ideals and teachings to love, not hate. To live authentically and not allow us to be bamboozled by despots and tyrants who love to see Americans divided. To look for the good in all (until proven otherwise) and to believe we can be better. To be careful with the temptation to scream at the other rather than to make an effort to respectfully share our differences over a cup of coffee, even if it’s to just agree to disagree.
When we do that, we discover we have so much more that binds us than what divides us.  That’s how we can begin to free our minds and souls of our worst instincts.  That’s how love wins over hate. Gosh, that’s so in the tradition of Jesus!

Rev. Luis A. Perez
Intentional Interim Pastor
UCC at The Villages

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