I love writing about my hometown of El Paso, Texas.
I hate having to write about it today, though.
I love that no matter how much the fabric of this community is stretched, our fibers only seem to get stronger; no matter how hot the sun gets or how furious the wind whips, the colors of our diversity and culture remain vibrant and unfaded.
I hate how El Paso has been vilified over the years, all because we are perceived to be unsafe, so close to Mexico’s drug war. I hate that people outside of this place have such a negative perception of my city, that we’re not the same as other Texas cities like Houston, Dallas & San Antonio.
I love that we’re not any of those cities (I’m unapologetically biased!). They can only dream of the many colors that appear on the mountains when the sun sets; the sweet smell of the desert soil when dark clouds bring summer rains. Other places, not just in Texas, but all over the country, are not as friendly as The Sun City, where there isn’t six degrees of separation — there’s three!
I hate that many first-time visitors see “nothing but desert” when they first arrive; I love how they always seem to wish they were staying longer when it’s time to leave because this place has a special way of growing on you. I have spoken to so many retired soldiers from Fort Bliss who chose to stick around after retirement and raise their families here, despite the fact that many admitted to being bummed when they found out that El Paso was their next deployment.
I love how my city has always pulled together, providing refuge, food, shelter and beds when hundreds of migrants were just dropped off in the middle of the night last Christmas with nowhere to go. I love how local churches, nonprofits and hotels came together with very short notice to ensure that these people, mainly women and children, were not left in the cold.
Like the immigrants they catch and detain at the border, I hate that my friends who work for U.S. Customs & Border Patrol find themselves as pawns in a larger game, as they are labeled as bad guys, when they’re just trying to do their very stressful jobs.
I hate that that our politicians can’t agree to come together and discuss the important issues that impact our lives, issues like immigration reform (because that’s not working) and more effective gun control (because that’s very clearly not working).
I love how even though we’re not the most economically advantaged city in Texas , nobody has our spirit, our soul and our passion. El Pasoans are givers — even when dollars are stretched to the limit. My people have a desire, las ganas, to make people feel welcome, to treat them like family. I love how El Pasoans embrace people we’ve never met before and how we play a social game of connect the dots by asking, “Where did you go to high school?” And when they have no luck finding somebody in common? “Let me buy you a beer, anyways!”
I love how El Paso comes together when the going gets tough, like when Ft. Bliss soldiers get sent to war. We send them off with the same tears, love, enthusiasm and support that we welcome them home with.
I hate how a 21-year-old drove 658 miles away on a mission to kill Hispanics never knew this about the people living in my city. I hate that he shot and killed 23 people because of the color of their skin.
I hate that the killer didn’t choke on his last meal as a free man — and I hate that I just wrote that — before indiscriminately firing at people (living on both sides of the border) who were shopping for school supplies, raising money for their youth soccer teams and just living their carefree lives.
I hate that my baby brother and my goddaughter were probably inside the store, most-likely paying and on their way out, while the shooter was inside casing the joint. I hated seeing my 10-year-old barricading herself in pillows and blankets on our sofa because she was so scared.
I hate that the killer had the gun in the first place. I hate that people are blaming video games and bringing up mental health. I hate that we’re so far apart on the issue of gun control and that our president can’t seem to stop politicizing a tragedy when he should just be the Healer In Chief that we need right now.
I hate the word hate.
That’s why we have a choice.
It’s why I have to…
I need to…