I have lived in our fair city for most of my life.
I was a mere lad of 23 when my bride and I moved here and all these years later I am considerably older than that, thank you very much, don’t remind me.
I was not born here, did not go to school here, didn’t graduate from here, but I still call this home, though lifelong Enidites doubtless would consider me a newcomer.
We moved around a lot when I was a kid and I never felt I belonged anyplace. Well, I belong here.
We’re not perfect, Lord knows, but then no place is.
Enid’s a good place to live, with a lifestyle that’s just city enough to make it interesting but just country enough to keep it friendly.
It hasn’t been a great place to drive the past several months, but that will ease up a bit when the West Willow project is finally completed.
Sure, we could use a little more retail and a few more restaurants, but you could probably say that about most towns our size.
We’ve got a lot going for us with our schools, our low unemployment rate (4.1 percent), Vance Air Force Base, David Allen Memorial Ballpark, the truck-eating bridge, our downtown, Central National Bank Center, our symphony, Gaslight Theatre, the trail system, Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center and more Mexican restaurants than you can shake a tortilla at.
Heck, we even have our own song, “Enid the City Beautiful,” written in the 1920s by Frank Iddings.
Our town is the 22nd best place to live in Oklahoma, according to the website niche.com, with an overall grade of B-plus, which means with a little extra studying or perhaps an extra credit project or two that could easily be bumped up to an A-minus.
Our schools received a B-minus from the website, a C-plus for crime and safety, an A-minus for housing, a B-plus for both nightlife and being good for families, and an A-minus for diversity.
Enid, in fact, is the 17th most diverse place in Oklahoma, according to niche.com.
Diversity, however, does not mean acceptance and tolerance.
On a recent Friday noon a local civic club, the Enid Noon AMBUCS, welcomed as guest speaker Mikael Deems Bryant, an Enid native.
Bryant also happens to be a member of the Muslim faith and is a board member of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
Bryant talked about CAIR’s mission to educate people about Islam, to encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims and build coalitions.
Bryant’s appearance was a positive step toward improving relations between American Muslims and those who practice other faiths.
He also spoke of the discrimination Muslims have faced right here in our state.
The Enid Noon AMBUCS should be applauded for opening its speaker’s platform to Bryant.
But then came some disturbing news. Kegan Tuohy, the group’s president-elect, revealed he had received several phone calls from fellow members urging him to cancel Bryant’s appearance. Some people, he said, were upset with him for scheduling a Muslim speaker.
Shame on those people. Islam is the fastest-growing religious group in the world. Christianity remains the world’s predominate faith, but the gap is closing. Doesn’t it behoove us to do all we can to understand one another, to try and forge ties with our Muslim brothers and sisters, and not to build barriers? What’s the matter with talking and listening? We don’t have to always agree, but we have to respect each individual’s right to their own opinion, no matter how far it roams from ours.
Besides, it is hard to fight and talk at the same time, unless you are married.
The vast majority of Muslims want what you and I want, a chance to live in peace, to practice our faith (or not) as we see fit.
It is true numerous atrocities have been committed worldwide by those claiming to be Muslim, but these killers have perverted the faith beyond recognition.
Hatred and fear are anchors holding back the ship of progress. Burying one’s head in the sand and choosing not to even attempt to understand someone whose ideas are different from yours only helps deepen the divide between people.
We’re better than that, Enid, or at least I thought we were.
Mullin is an award-winning writer and columnist who recently retired after 41 years with the News & Eagle. Email him at email@example.com.