Webster’s Dictionary defines diversity as: a quality, state, fact, or instance of being diverse, difference; a variety. The United States of America was founded by a diverse population fleeing prejudice and persecution to come as immigrants to a new land. Their hope and dream was to establish a new world of tolerance where they would be free to practice their diverse beliefs and live in peace.
Webster’s Dictionary defines tolerance as: tolerating or being tolerant of views, beliefs, and practices of others that differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry or prejudice.
Sadly, history shows us that what our forefathers and mothers wished for themselves and for generations to come did not come to pass. Generations of Americans have continually found a group who were “different” from the majority to persecute and annihilate.
History has shown us how the early immigrants inflicted a lack of tolerance for the indigenous peoples already living in the Americas. We all know and many of us are ashamed at the rampant murder and mistreatment of the native people of this land.
Then the Irish immigrants arrived on the shores of America, fleeing famine in their land. Did we show them tolerance and acceptance? The “N” word was first used to describe the Irish and the young men were forced into conscription in the military, and their wives and children were left to fend for themselves in a hostile land.
The list of groups that we, as a nation, have shown so little tolerance and compassion for and have even persecuted is immense. The African slaves, the Chinese, the Italians, the German Americans, the Japanese Americans, those we labeled Communists, many different religious organizations and currently Muslims and South Americans.
Even more prevalent today is the hatred of one political party for another and the name calling and alienation that it causes. My heart is heavy with the lack of tolerance and the divisiveness that exists in the U.S. today. Starting at the top with the politicians in Washington, D.C. and trickling down to the least of our citizens; we hear so much hateful language and rage on a daily basis. The world today seems to be full of anger and it is literally killing us.
Suicides among young people have risen in the last decade; young people are arming themselves and killing indiscriminately; alcohol and drug abuse is a national problem; and language used on social media is demeaning of others and somehow has become the acceptable norm. Bullying in schools and on social media is increasing.
Fear is the dominant driving emotion of the day and is the reason we arm our school teachers and add security in places we never worried about before; such as libraries and churches.
Was the Statue of Liberty’s motto always a lie? Did the nation ever truly welcome immigrants or live up to the words in the pledge to the flag; liberty and justice for all?
I grew up in a very diverse home. My father was a staunch Republican, and Franklin D. Roosevelt was the enemy who ruined America in his view. He was also a Christian Scientist. My mother, on the other hand, was a staunch Democrat and loved FDR, as she believed he saved America from a horrible depression. She was a practicing Protestant Christian.
My father had an eighth-grade education due to hearing loss but had a lifelong career in the radio business. My mother was married young during the depression and dropped out of school, but in her later years, while working at the Wyoming State Hospital, she enrolled in every college class she could. When she took her GED in her 50s, her scores were in the top 1% in the nation. All of her life she valued education and learning.
My four sisters and I all went to college. Some of us went on to achieve higher degrees and careers. We honored each other’s talents and abilities and appreciated the diverse interests and beliefs in our own family.
Three of my sisters were practicing Christians their entire lives; one declared to be Agnostic; and one is a Pagan. One sister was a Rush Limbaugh fan and a staunch Republican; I can’t tolerate Limbaugh and I am a staunch Democrat. We loved each other in spite of our differences and agreed to disagree on certain subjects. We never let our different values and beliefs come between the bonds of family love.
The world has changed dramatically since I was a child and I am grateful for most of those changes. Women, children and minorities have gained more rights and privileges that for many years were enjoyed only by white males. We have made great strides in technology and health care though we still have a lot of work to do to save our planet and diverse species as well.
My and my sisters’ children and grandchildren have become even more diverse. They represent many different racial and ethnic backgrounds, different sexual persuasions, different careers, different religious and political beliefs. This same diversity is what makes the U.S. so unique and special and what we must cherish and defend.
Collectively, we in the U.S. have a long way to go to live up to what we proclaim on the Statue of Liberty and repeat in the pledge to our flag. My hope is that the new year of 2020 will bring positive and dramatic change and we will truly “welcome the tired and the poor to our shores and provide liberty and justice for all.”