Our heritage does not define us

I am a Southern girl. Born and raised in East Tennessee. Lived here most of my life. There is so much about this area I love and am proud of.

The breathtaking beauty of the lakes and the majesticness of the mountains.

That people still pull off the road for funeral processions.

That if I am a penny short at the gas station and the ashtray is empty, every single person in the store will dig into their pockets looking for change.

That there is a casserole for every occasion.

That I can start a conversation with anyone in any line at any store.

That people will eat potato salad they hate just so they don't hurt their grandma's feelings.

That if you run out of napkins at a picnic, the family beside you has enough to share.

That the tea is cold and sweet, and hopefully spiked with moonshine.

That even though my neighbor disagrees with every single thing I believe in, he insists that I call him before the cops if anyone tries to break into the house. He has guns and will get here faster.

That even though I'm not a huge sports fan, I have never NOT teared up when hearing Rocky Top.

That when a neighbor needs help, people show up. Always. Without fail.

That pride and loyalty and stubbornness and rebelliousness are embedded in our DNA.

But it's that pride and loyalty and stubbornness and rebelliousness that I also despise - especially when it is combined with fear and hate and ego and righteousness.

Hate is part of our history, but it doesn't have to be part of our heritage.

Heritage is defined as:

1) Something that is handed down from the past, as a tradition;

2) Something that comes or belongs to one by reason of birth.

We can choose to pass down hate and division or we can stand for love and inclusion.

We define our heritage; our heritage does not define us.