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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My son is marrying a wonderful lady in a few short weeks. My problem is, he's insisting that I dance with his father, whom I divorced a few years ago.

My divorce was very hard on me, but afterward I lived my life without fear -- until now. I am engaged to a wonderful man whom my son appears to like. I am so upset over this request that I touch or put my arms around my ex-husband that I don't know what to do. This man put me through pure hell before I left, and my son knows it. When I left I had nothing. My parents paid for my divorce, apartment and my son's college education.

His father lied, would bring his girlfriend into our home with us there, never paid bills, even borrowed our son's cell phone, ran up $900 in charges and refused to pay. When an important event is going on in my son's life, I'm there and always civil to his father. But I will not let that man touch me ever again.

Please help me. I want to attend the wedding, but I can't stand the idea of my ex touching me. I'm shaking as I write this. -- SHAKING IN HARRISBURG, PA.

DEAR SHAKING: Stop shaking and speak up! Tell your son and his fiancee that you will not, under any circumstances, dance with your ex. Your reasons are valid; perhaps your son needs to be reminded of them.

DEAR ABBY: You stated to "Roman Catholic in New Jersey," who talked about a time in years past where we in America were more "tolerant and caring" toward our neighbors, that you remember a gentler time when "America pictured itself more a melting pot and less a patchwork quilt."

A gentler time for whom? Certainly not for ethnic minorities, whoever they happened to be at any time in our history. Whether they be Irish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Hispanic, African-American, etc., all were and some remain excluded from mainstream America. The patchwork quilt you mention is a product of that exclusion -- and to think otherwise is looking at reality through rose-colored glasses.

A glaring example of that exclusion is here in Los Angeles. It is common knowledge that the fall television schedule has all but eradicated any sense of inclusion, with programming almost exclusively comprising white actors. Los Angeles is one of the largest multicultural cities in the world!

I certainly agree with you about how this world would be a more hospitable place if attitudes were more inclusive, and I recognize the efforts of individuals and organizations that work toward that goal. But please do not continue to perpetuate the myth about the so-called "gentler time." -- IRMA R. BARRAGAN, MOORPARK, CALIF.

DEAR IRMA: Perhaps the "good old days" weren't so good for everybody. American history is a collection of events -- many of which we can point to with pride, some of which are deplorable. Although we can learn from the mistakes of the past, we cannot change them. We can change only the future.

Flawed as it may seem to be, the United States of America still stands as the No. 1 land of opportunity in the world.

P.S. Let's hope the fall television schedule is a temporary aberration.

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