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Letter: Little to fear

Published: Monday, June 9, 2014 9:25 p.m. CDT

To the Editor:

I recently returned from a school year in Moscow, Russia’s immense capital. I’m excited to be back in the USA for a whole host of reasons. But do you know what thrilled me most at O’Hare?

Bilingual signs.

People of color with jobs other than handing out flyers on the street. Diversity. There are no signs that I saw in Tajik or Kyrgyz in Moscow and little attempt to realize that the immigrants and city natives who don’t speak Russian are valuable humans, too.

It is wonderful to speak English again and to hear Spanish at “Rocket Park” in St. Charles and at Geneva Commons. Thus, it frustrates me to return to the perpetual English vs. Spanish arguments in “Sound Off.” It saddens me to realize that the conversations I’ve been trying to have in Moscow were perhaps hypocritical – for how can I hold up my country as a beacon of equality when my reality here is not so shining?

Two languages make our country stronger. It helps make necessities more accessible. It makes us equals, despite our differences. Most importantly: It shows that we derive strength from diversity, that we do not need to lash out at that which we do not understand.

Without delving too deep into Russian politics, I believe some recent trends are based on a profound sense of insecurity, of not knowing what the country and its peoples are meant to be in the post-Soviet world.

And that creates aggression toward the different people. I see this as a reason behind the horrible status of immigrants, people of color and those who don’t speak Russian in Moscow.

Please tell me we are not so unsure, so terrified. We have little to fear, least of all that many people here speak Spanish. Please see how good it is that we can learn more through breaking down barriers, despite the work that remains to be done. Please let me use this country as an example. Please think of liberty – of the freedom to express oneself and connect with others – and justice for all.

We are so much better than this pointless fear of an integral part of our country’s story. Now let’s act like it, if not for the sake of our neighborhoods, then for the people around the globe who really do take our words and deeds to heart.

Caroline Elkin

St. Charles

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