Response to Kate Smith articles

To the editor:

The fastest way to alienate a local is to take them or their history out of context and culture. Is this not the same for those seeking to integrate?

We have more in common than most people think. Consider this perspective: Rural mountain people are a global cultural minority. Our history is also one of alienation and exploitation — of our land, our natural resources and our people. We may or may not have had racism in our ancestral heritage, but we are familiar with a sometimes oppressive economic caste system that kept many of our families in poverty and ignorance for generations. We are still combating above-average adult illiteracy rates. We are all, to some extent, a product of our history and environment. Mountain people are fiercely independent and proud because we have had to survive our climate and create the peaceful communities that are now attracting urban people, immigrants and racial minorities. We are protective stewards of what we and our ancestors have built and restored because we inherently know its value. In some ways, isolation and pride have held us back. Some are struggling to hold on to their heritage and cultural identity while living in an overwhelming post-modern digital age that threatens our traditions, heritage and ecosystem.

We have come a long way, comparatively speaking. I remember high school boys gang-stalking and pack-style bullying gay youth from the backs of pickup trucks after school on LaPan Highway. That was in the mid ’90s. Today, that behavior is no longer tolerated, and we have a thriving LGBTQ population that is fully integrated. Patience is a virtue, as are compassion and diplomacy.

Productive diplomacy requires a firm knowledge of the history and culture one seeks to incorporate themselves into. A true diplomat knows how to leverage that knowledge and communicate to elicit a positive response, not incite a negative reaction. The Enterprise, as a bridge to diversity and ambassador of the community, should do a better job of bringing cultural diplomats together and presenting their points of view from a place of neutrality. Those formally promoting integration should behave like diplomats and ambassadors. We cannot erase or diminish the heritage or experience of either side and expect to reach an accord. Race-bating articles like this, positioned to tease out reflexive responses from both sides, are counter-productive and only fuel reactionary outrage that widens the gap.

Kelly Thoreck

Saranac Lake

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