Commentary: The imminent death of diversity
Diversity … dying? In 21st-century America? Is that what you’re really saying? Yes, and here’s another staggering premise. Ironically, diversity’s demise isn’t coming from the religious right, but instead from the very people who scream diversity the loudest. In the areas of the greatest social tension diversity is in trouble.
Consider sexuality. Diversity has been the hallmark of sexual alternatives. How odd then that uniformity is now demanded of anyone holding to the politically incorrect position. Rejection of the cultural narrative of natural, noble homosexuality, is immediately demonized. Where is diversity when one is allowed only one view or belief? The opinion may be wrong, but how is one to know without the freedom to openly debate the pros and cons? How weak is my position when my shouts for diversity silence my opponent?
Item two; religion. Our culture cries diversity, yet insists all religions are basically the same, insulting sincere believers of all faiths in the process. Where is diversity when a uniformity of religions is espoused. To worship Allah is to worship Buddha, is to…. Yet outside the belief of something beyond the material world, these religions are utterly distinct. The front page trend, fearing an overreaction to Islamic extremism, is to infer Muslims worship the Christian God. Despite a common ancestry in Abraham, no true Muslim will affirm the basic Christian belief that Jesus is God’s virgin-born son. Such a claim is blasphemous in the Islamic faith. How do I honor my Muslim neighbor while denying a central distinctive about his faith? Where is religious diversity in the insistence on a single, genderless deity, hiding behind the mask of all religions? How can we celebrate religious diversity while clamoring to deny it?
Take then politics. Both sides of the aisle operate as if the country would be better off without the other party. Both, claiming the big tent under which diversity is welcomed, seem tone deaf to workable ideas coming from the other camp. A political system with only one voice is known, not as democracy, but as dictatorship. Both sides are guilty of that leaning and without debating values from the other side we move further in that direction. For many the verdict’s already in. Where is this venerated diversity in a one party system?
How did a country founded on the ideas of open debate and pluralistic ideas arrive here? The culprit lies in the historical observation that societies based on the sensual decline, while those based on reason ascend. Reason-based cultures, as ours once was, welcomed the open discussion of competing ideas, knowing that only through this would the best good for the most people be reached. Now a society fixated on pleasure, everything is defined by how it makes us feel, rather than by whether or not it contributes to the well-being of society as a whole. Nothing illustrates this better than our first category above.
The founders risked their lives to establish a new country. We mark that great accomplishment with a day. Martin Luther King ultimately gave his life to bring equality to almost half of America’s population. He received a day of recognition. The first black president, who’s journey might not have been possible without Dr. King’s heroic work, wishes to accord a month to celebrate homosexuality which represents only a fraction of the populace. Would such an obvious disparity be overlooked in a culture of reason?
Is that statement inflammatory? Not if the celebration of diverse viewpoints is our goal. How may any opinion be held as true without the freedom to publicly debate it? Thomas Jefferson said, “Errors of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat them.” Where is the celebration of diversity in the silencing of opposing viewpoints? Demanding uniformity, diversity is left gasping in the corner, neglected by the very ones who gave it breath.
William Shifflett is an Edinburg resident.