Sunday, August 30, 2015

Is America’s Diverse Culture Ending?b>

If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which diverse human gifts will find fitting place.

Margaret Mead (1901-1978), Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies

America is a diverse society, a culture that works best when immigrants assimilate, learn the language, and obey the laws. This is easy to forget when gun violence explodes, partisanship prevails, and accusations fly of the GOP as a terrorist organization exploiting women.

In my view, at our best, we are a fair, non-racist society, and non-ideological society. We twice elected a black president. Today the New York Times Magazine celebrated Serena Williams as “Her Excellency.” Ben Carson, a black neurosurgeon, rose to second place in Republican primary polls. Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist, was leading Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, and closing in on her in Iowa.

We are also a center-right society that fears big government will hamper personal freedoms and retard the opportunity for all citizens to rise, based on their skills, not on their race or gender. This belief produces social inequities. But we are a society that believes in diversity and choice and entrepreneurial skills as opposed to uniformity and equal outcomes for all.

This belief system may produce a political counter revolution that says the system is rigged for those with skills and money and oppresses minorities. And center-right thinking may lead to nation that regards itself as the first among nations rather than just a nation among equals and thinks of itself as superior to nations will less wealth and resources.

Former vice-president and his daughter, Liz, herself a former government official, expressed this view with these words in an August 29-30 Wall Street Journal Op-Ed with this argument.

“Our children need to know that they are citizens of the most powerful, good and honorable nation in the history of mankind – the exceptional nation. They must know that they are the inheritors of a great legacy and a great duty. Ordinary Americans have done heroic things to guarantee freedom’s survival . Now it is up to us.” (“Restoring American Exceptionalism, ” WSJ, August 29-30, 2015).

The Cheneys end by quoting President Reagan on the 40th anniversary of the D-Day landings, “ We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free.”

The proud words of the Cheneys were designed to mobilize opposition again the Iran nuclear deal.

Opponents will surely retort by saying that Pride always goeth before the Fall, that diplomacy must always replace confrontation , that you must always trust rather than vilify, and that unity must always supersede diversity when negotiating with foreign powers.

It is difficult to change a diverse culture that holds two opposed ideas equally in mind at the same time - government care and private care, second amendment gun rights and strict gun control . But we must. As President John Kennedy remarked in a 1963 address at American University, “If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.”

Is America’s cultural diversity ending ? Perhaps. Something is happening out there, 71% of Americans say the country is moving in the wrong direction.
The political tectonic plates are shifting. We seek something or somebody new, fresh, and different – something that will bring us together again and make us great again, something we seem to have lost.
Call it what you wish - anger, angst, or anxiety - Americans distrust everybody on both sides of the political establishment. Into this vacuum has moved non-politicians offering something better , a better America, better business deals, better government - anything but what we have now. We have new Wizards of Oz. The questions surrounding those behind these new curtains are these: Is there any there there? And if so what?

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