Russell Pearce wants to shame me for ‘destroying America,’ but he failed

Russell Pearce in 2011. Photo by Gage Skidmore | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

I had the recent honor of being among those called “architects of the destruction of America” by former state Sen. Russell Pearce. When I first read Pearce’s public outcry, I didn’t feel it was worth a response. Upon further reflection, I decided I needed to use my voice to show that we can respond to ugly accusations with peace and with compassion.

I love my country and I have a deep appreciation and understanding of the Constitution of the United States. I love our Constitution so much that I want the equality promised in it and in the Declaration of Independence to be extended to the entire human family. That includes Black people, First People, refugees, people seeking asylum and undocumented members of our communities. All lives have worth and are deserving of dignity.

I admit that I did not always have this perspective — and I have Pearce to thank for my change of heart. I aligned myself with many of his policies and points of view until he proposed SB1070 in 2010, our infamous “show me your papers” law. That law was so blatantly unconstitutional, so contrary to my core belief that we are all God’s children, that I began to break with Pearce.

When I was 13, I made the choice to become baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was solely my choice, and I faced no pressure to do so (though maybe a bit of paternal pressure not to do so). One of the greatest doctrines of my church is that we all have agency, or the ability to make choices for ourselves. We also believe we have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit to help guide us in these decisions, but we are expected to study and ponder that guidance. To truly gain wisdom, we have to come with open hearts and minds, ready to receive.

SB1070 opened my eyes and allowed me to seek truth outside of my comfort zone. I do not profess to know all truth and do not find that one political party or ideology has all truth. That is the beauty of diversity. We can learn and grow from each other as we truly listen.

The contention is only going to increase between now and Election Day. It does not have to be so. We can sit down together and talk and truly listen. We needn’t fear ideas that are different than our own. Our Founding Fathers had vastly different political beliefs, but they came together to create a document that, while imperfect, was inspired and strong — and even allowed for changes to be made. The constitutional amendments we have did not come easily or without conflict. Neither does change in our own lives. But I believe with all my heart that having diverse opinions makes us better, but only if coupled with peace and love for each human life in our midst.

I do believe that Pearce has forgotten that there are faces behind the names he condemned. I have a face. I am an Arizonan, a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a graduate of Brigham Young University. I have thoughts and feelings and hopes and dreams. Pearce also has a face. I do not know him personally, but have friends who do. They tell me he is an active member of his LDS congregation and a loving grandfather.

I don’t know why he has chosen to try to shame me or anyone else, but he has failed. I see him as a person with different views, not as an enemy.

In future moments I expect I will falter, as I am only human and become frustrated and angry when facing differing views. But in this moment, I hope my opponent’s face will always remain in my heart and mind, reminding me we are all God’s children.

Will we see our neighbors as enemies? Or can we instead find the humanity in each other?