Doug Barker - Come as you are is more than a song title

I was struck this week by the connection of a couple of news stories in our paper — the consideration of removing the “Come As You Are” motto on the Welcome to Aberdeen sign, and the outrage over a Hoquiam café owner’s statement that he wanted to nurture an environment where “traditional,” married couples, meaning males and females, could come for a night out.

First, I think the chances of the “Come As You Are” sign coming down are slim and none. There probably was never much chance, but your outcry at even the possibility of its removal won’t be lost on decision makers.

I’m very fond of that sign. It’s hard to imagine a more accepting and welcoming notion. Come as you are. You don’t have to be like me, like us, like them, like him or like her. Come as you are. What more can a community offer?

I have always had the belief that Kurt Cobain took those words from the reader board on what is now the United Christian Church at the corner of First and L streets in Aberdeen. Until a few years ago, that motto hung on a separate little sign under the church reader board that announces the times of service and the sorts of things on church reader boards. Same message: “Come As You Are” on its own separate little sign. I used to imagine the pews lined with folks in their bathrobes and slippers.

He likely would have walked past that sign a zillion times heading from his house in east Aberdeen down First Street on his way to Lamont and Barb Schillinger’s place farther down First Street. He hung out with their boys, played music in their garage and for quite a while when he was 86’d from his house, slept on their couch. Come as you are fits the Schillingers to a T.

If the sign did plant the seed in his mind, who knows what he might have thought about it. The lyrics to the song don’t offer much of a clue, but they surely meant something to him. As someone who didn’t feel accepted here, he must have meant it with at least some degree of irony. “Come as you are, as you were, as I want you to be.” In other words: Welcome, come as you are, as long as you’re like me.

We all do that don’t we? I do. I don’t want to tell people how to think, but in my weaker moments I think they’re wrong when they don’t think like I do.

Judging from social media pages, a lot of people think the owner of a new Hoquiam café is wrong because he said he wants to “hold a couples night where people can celebrate their marriages, traditional marriages between a man and a woman — the way God intended.”

I think he’s wrong — wrong to imply that some couples are intended by God and some aren’t. I just don’t think there’s anything right about that. But I struggle a bit with how to think about him. How can I let Luis Mestas come as he is and be intolerant of him? But how can I not object when what he says seems intolerant of others?

Never underthink things when you can overthink them.

A wise man (local psychologist Monty Meier) once said that, basically, everybody is doing the best they can at every moment, but that we can change as our environment, experiences or exposure to others and their ideas change us. (Apologies to Monty Meier for probably butchering his thoughts).

I hope people will give Luis Mestas a chance to be changed by his experience. And I hope this experience will affect how he sees loving relationships — no matter the gender. “Come As You Are” would be a nice motto to hang over the door.

Doug Barker, The Daily World’s editor, can be reached at 537-3923, or by email at dbarker@thedailyworld.com.


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