Ron Friesen: Marysville must bridge fault lines dividing it

‘Quakes’ have rattled the community for years, but there is hope to come together and rebuild.

By Ron Friesen / Herald Forum

Deep divisions are shaking Marysville. The recent school board discussions targeting LGBTQ and gender-questioning students exposed a huge fault line. Marysville is quaking. But this is not the only fault line here. It is only the most recent.

I-5 was built on the border of the Tulalip Tribes reservation and Marysville. Tribal members still refer to Marysville as “on the other side of the mountains.” This fault line has deepened as disturbing truths about the Tulalip boarding school come out. We want to keep our head in the sand, but the sand trembles.

Every school district struggles when going from one high school to two. But ours was the worst when in 1971 Pilchuck High School was built. The community was defiant and divided. An uneasy peace was reached by returning to a single (new) high school, now named Marysville Pilchuck High School. But the fault line of distrust remains. Building Marysville Getchel High School before rebuilding Marysville Pilchuck deepened the fault line. We have not passed a bond since and now face a double levy loss.

Our schools are crumbling. Four elementary schools and Marysville Pilchuck should be bulldozed right now. Stanwood High School and Lakewood High School were both built after Marysville Pilchuck. Both of those high schools were torn down and replaced with modern, safe, secure high schools.

After the shooting Marysville Pilchuck in 2014, Marysville could only replace the cafeteria. The school’s security has worsened as school security officers were cut and disruptive students roaming campus goes unchecked. This tragedy and lack of community support has created an unfathomably deep fault line of fear and despair.

Marysville has the lowest school ratings on real estate guides in our area. Families with school-age children either choose to live in a surrounding community instead of Marysville, they home school or choose private school over public school, or they enroll their student in another district and drive them daily. Their last resort is our public schools. A dire fault line!

The churches in Marysville, once leaders in providing community pride, support and unity are struggling to even survive after the pandemic decimated their congregations’ attendance and participation. And sadly, the LGBTQ controversy in our schools is a church issue too.

There are three distinct church camps. The first camp insists that anything related to LGBTQ is sin. Lip service is given to “love the sinner, hate the sin,” but in reality it is “hate and rejection” posing as righteousness. Parents are told our public schools are being led by evil people with evil intent. In a conversation with a church official in one of our private church schools, I asked for his help and suggested that Marysville schools were in danger of closing. His flippant response? “I wouldn’t mind that!”

A beacon of hope has risen in response and makes it clear that all are God’s children and are to be loved, kept safe, and accepted. This second camp has been necessary precisely because of churches who claim to be “Christian,” but who refuse to accept that hate and division are not from God.

The third camp sees this division, discord and conflict and is desperately trying find a way to bring the church community back together. But there is no “middle ground” to work from. So while there is hope, there is no clear path forward.

And now the shaking has begun. People shaking with rage. Rage barely concealed at our last school board meeting. Rage which causes fear, division and destruction. The character of Marysville is on display. Will we endure and rebuild?

Despite all our faults and divisions I remain hopeful! Marysville’s reservoir of goodwill runs even deeper than its fault lines. There are already people choosing to rebuild and restore us with determination and hope.

But we need more. May those with goodwill in their hearts choose now to rise up! We need you.

Ron Friesen is a longtime Marysville resident, a retired music teacher and community and church musician and is committed to community improvement.

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