Sunday, August 21, 2011

What Shade Democracy?

I will admit I have found the view of my world rather unsettling lately. I can’t seem to figure out why there is so much prejudice when it comes to our population and even our decision-making.

A couple of years ago the nation was congratulating itself on electing a president who represented a non-white race. There was a huge infusion of pride and hope for our country. We had cracked the race barrier at last!

Then President Obama went to work on the colossal mess he inherited from past presidents and Congress. He was a man with a plan, and realization of that plan put him squarely in the cross hairs of bigots and nay-sayers who knew without doubt this was an evil man. I do not doubt that prejudice is a heavy hitter in what is going on right now. I hear it every day on the street – and I wonder what sort of public opinion I would hear if our nation’s leader did not also represent another race.

Who, I ask, has the education, courage and stamina to stand up to the problems our president faced from day one? I know for sure I wouldn’t want the job, but if I did have to do it, I would like to hope I would have time to see the plan come to fruition and have the support of the men and women who helped elect him.

I understand that prejudice has a huge role in this drama in which we are enmeshed. And it is a drama that goes back as far as mankind. If someone is different, has a different skin tone, a strange religion or an exotic dietary law, they have to be bad. It is automatic, and cause for discord, disharmony and war.

The real problem is we don’t learn. We didn’t learn from the Holocaust, when millions died simply because they had a different belief system. We didn’t learn from the near-genocide of the American Indians who welcomed European visitors with open hearts and were massacred and pushed aside for their trouble. We don’t learn.

Over time, we have excoriated the Jews, the Irish, the Chinese, and recently Hispanics – pushing them into ghettos and forcing them to work for sub-standard wages – just because we can.

The truth is we are all of us immigrants. I proudly claim a Native American ancestry, and yet when looking back, I see that even they struck out from another continent, walked (it is a theory anyway!) across the Bering Straits and took over a world that may or may not have been empty. Today it is all right (maybe even stylish) to be Native American, but go south a ways and our cousins in Mexico and points south are not all right at all.

If I remember my high school history correctly, we are a country that supposedly endorses that familiar legend on the Statue of Liberty welcoming the poor, the tired, and huddled masses. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

I hope you think about it… and stay on the sunny side!


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