Sunday, August 12, 2012

Diversity is a difficult thing to navigate...but we try.

America is a great country and we have moved forward a great deal in embracing our diversity.  But we do have a long way to go but let's not focus on the negative.  This is my response to something I read that did.

We, as a culture, have a long way to go, but we are better than many places in the world when it comes to our multicultural nature. We were created as a multicultural country with the sense that what being American meant would change with each group that came to add to the mix. The Melting Pot was not a theory that we would all become the same white Anglo-Saxon Protestant cookie cutter, but some tried to force that and still do. Instead of embracing the other we fear or ignore it. But as a country we evolve. The Stonewall riots were in 1969 and today we have gay marriage in places like Iowa. Selma was in 1965 and today we have a Black President. Yes there is hate in our country but yes there is a growing trend to undo the hate as we learn about others.

The bottom line is we must see those who are different from us as being part of the grand tapestry of what it means to be American. The killer at the Sikh Temple had a history of White Power movement involvement. I don't know his mind, but I can guess that he was striking out against what he saw as an attack on what he thought was his America. That is ignorance turned violent. And that ignorance is what we must combat. Tolerance is not the solution. I was tolerant of the 100 degree weather this summer but if I had a magic wand I would make it go away. Understanding should be the solution.

We often focus on the examples of hate.  Violence and vandalism at mosques, synagogues, and even churches. Radio screamers saying things that 20 years ago were barely whispered in polite company. With the ubiquity of the internet rhetoric is higher than it ever was and people are proud of their bigotry. But I look elsewhere as well. I look to a stormy night this week where Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Baha’i and others all gathered in support and memory of the victims of Sikh tragedy. I look at efforts like the Interfaith Hunger Initiative to feed the hungry of Marion County and Western Kenya through an effort led by a variety of clergy and lay people from various houses of worship. I saw a diversity of football fans and those who love the city welcome the country to our city in January for the premier sporting event of the year. We are stronger together but our diversity is not without complications. America is a human endeavor with human failings. However to focus on the failings is to focus on the worst of us. Let us also acknowledge that we are moving forward, sometimes it looks like it is glacial but in my lifetime I have seen a black man with an Arabic name get elected President beating one of the most powerful political machines (one I supported) in the primary and a war hero in the general election. We have a long way to go, but we have come a long way. Clichés are good for bumper stickers. I am betting most of America is sick as I am of those damn things.

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