Northwest NEWS

October 22, 2001

Features

Strengthening our national spirit

From the desk of Gov. Gary Locke
   Tuesday, Sept. 11, will be remembered by all Americans as a day of unspeakable horror and grief. What began as an ordinary late summer morning, was forever changed by ghastly acts of evil.
   For Americans and people around the world, the wave of terrorism carved open a hole of unbearable grief. In all parts of America, people gathered to memorialize the thousands of men and women who began a Tuesday morning never again to return home. They gathered to make sense of the senseless and to make lesser the evils of mankind.
   Americans are a brave, decent and generous people. During this period of appalling pain, as we absorb the shock and injustice of these acts, we must resolve to apply our principles of justice and fairness.
   There have been both avenues of light and walls of darkness since the 11th. I have been moved by the outpouring of aid from Washingtonians to help New York City and Washington, D.C. recover from the terrorist attacks. And, though it is important for us to help those affected by these tragedies, it is equally imperative to remember charities close to home that provide valuable resources to Washingtonians in need.
   At the same time most Americans have been giving, some have been lashing out. Since the senseless attacks of Sept. 11, there exists a high level of fear in the Arab, Muslim, Central and South Asian communities in Washington state and the entire nation. Most of us have read or heard about acts of harassment, intimidation and discrimination against these communities since the terrorist attacks. In Seattle, the Idriss Mosque received several phone threats and a man tried to set fire to a vehicle owned by worshippers. In Sea-Tac a person attacked a Sikh cab driver and called him a "butcher terrorist."
   While we must remain vigilant to the possibility of future terrorist attacks, as Americans we must reject acts of hate and discrimination toward anyone, be they Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist.
   Hate based on skin color, religious beliefs or country of origin has no place in America. Intolerance and stereotyping are the opposite of America's ideals; they undercut our civic values and betray all that makes us strong, vital and free. We will work to ensure that the tragedy of Sept. 11 is never used as a pretext for hate.
   In the coming weeks there are three goals I will pursue that immediately address acts of hate.
   I hope that all Washingtonians will do their part to help advance these initiatives. Our goals are to
   Engender an environment that will reject acts of hate or retaliation;
   Reach out to affected communities to lessen their fear;
   Offer guidance to citizens who wish to support their Arab, Muslim and Central and South Asian neighbors.
   In line with these goals I visited the Idriss Mosque in Seattle on Oct. 1 to meet with local Islamic leaders. I also plan to visit a Tacoma synagogue attacked in late-September to discuss their concerns.
   In addition, I will be sending a letter to community leaders statewide urging them to visit local Arab or Islamic centers and to amplify the message that we must repudiate acts of discrimination. I encourage all Washingtonians to invite speakers from the Arab and Muslim communities into their places of worship, service clubs and chambers of commerce.
   Finally, as I traveled to New York City last week, it was very gratifying to see people getting back to normal routines and day-to-day activities. I encourage Washingtonians to do the same. We should keep our travel plans whether it's for business or pleasure.
   Families should reunite for the holidays. Schools should continue to schedule field trips for their students.
   We are being tested as a people and as a nation. Times of challenge have a way of revealing our true character. Let us show the world that the American ideals of justice and fairness live in each of her citizens.
   America has been tested throughout our history. Each time we have passed that test. This time we'll rebuild our spirit and our economy one community at a time. We cannot strengthen our nation without first giving to our neighborhoods. Each time, we are emboldened and grow stronger. That is the spirit of America.
   As Americans, we stand united in our pledge that decency and justice and freedom will prevail.
   Gary Locke is Governor of Washington