Every week, I have private conversations with people in my community about difference and hurtful language. Topics range from sexuality and mental ability to religion and race.
The central themes of every conversation are fear of difference, projection of negative personal experiences, and a history of myths and generalizations that require debunking.
This past Friday I called Lewiston Mayor Bob Macdonald and asked him to explain his comment that immigrants should “leave their culture at the door.” We had a productive conversation, but it was in private. As public officials, we must convene and resolve these issues in a public manner.
I strongly reject the unfair and inaccurate message that has been sent to immigrants — that their culture is less valuable or inferior to “our own.” I further reject the idea that individual interpretation and experience of culture is so uniform that such comparisons are possible to make.
All cultural institutions are worthy of critique, but no members of this community deserve to feel unsafe or unwelcome in Lewiston because of their affiliation with any social group.
Lewiston's Ward 5 is a place where people from all cultures are affirmed. We embrace diversity, we wrestle with it, and we celebrate it. We proudly lead Maine in doing so.
I invite fellow city councilors to issue similar messages of support for cultural diversity. I also invite a public apology from the mayor.
We must correct the negative message that has been broadcast around the world about our city.
Craig Saddlemire, Lewiston
City Councilor, Ward 5