American Diversity

America’s diverse citizenry anchors American democracy.” – The Lonely Realist

America is not like other countries. It is a melting pot where nationalities, races, cultures, religions, ethnicities and tribes have been welcomed. It has been called “God’s Crucible” because America has effected the fusion of a multiplicity of backgrounds into a single hybridized, democratic society. That’s the American Dream.

America is not like other countries. Other countries share a common racial, cultural, ethnic, religious and/or tribal identity and, in many nations, a purity of race, culture, ethnicity, religion and/or tribe. The opposite is true in America. America is a conglomeration of races, cultures, ethnicities, religions and tribes. Tolerance is a foundational cornerstone of American democracy, a principle embedded in America’s Constitution. America has demonstrated the indispensability and durability of that Constitutional value over the last 240 years …, though not consistently and with notable lapses.

America’s origins define it. North America was sparsely-populated when it was settled by Western European adventurers. They eliminated the indigenous population, severed the controlling cord of their colonial master, and formed a new nation. In doing so, they determined to adopt the thinking and philosophical underpinnings of the Enlightenment. No other nation successfully did so, either before or since. The example of America’s founders was followed by generation-after-generation of Americans who welcomed a widening range of previously-shunned immigrant groups, first from Eastern and Southern Europe, then from Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and South America. America’s Constitution made them all Americans, an inspiring application of Enlightenment principles and a narrative unique in human history. There has been nothing like it anywhere else … ever. Moreover, no large nation developed as quickly and with such unparalleled success, let alone after adopting an economic model that included not only laissez-faire capitalism, but also racially-driven slavery. No nation experienced a consequentially-bloody and divisive Civil War. No nation endured a subsequent century-long period of racial repression followed by only partially-successful efforts at integration. No nation has wrestled as America has with these issues. And, significantly, no nation has flourished in the ways and to the extent America has … despite its history and divisions. Could that be because no nation ever embraced the practice of limitless diversity as America has?

Comparisons to other countries fail. Among international competitors, Japan values racial purity, China emphasizes ethnic purity, France and Germany share a preference for cultural purity, Russia requires political purity, Saudi Arabia has required religious purity, Benin and other African nations have a history of tribal purity, etc. The citizens of other countries most often speak a single language that underlies a unique multi-century historical narrative framing national identity. America’s historical narrative is short, its national identity anchored in its Constitutional democracy … and its diversity. America after all is a Nation of Immigrants (the title of a 1963 book by JFK), unique in terms of the different backgrounds, races, cultures, ethnicities, religions and tribes of its population …, all immigrants or the descendants of immigrants. America owes much of its success to that diversity and to the embedding of tolerance in America’s institutions. It’s why America’s democracy has been a beacon for generations of immigrants.

After 240 years of diversity, 240 years of welcoming immigrants, and 240 years of adherence to the Enlightenment principles embodied in America’s Constitution, will America’s focus on diversity continue to drive American democracy’s success?

America’s enemies present American democracy as a failing enterprise (a theme their bots expand on while emphasizing anecdotal examples). Chinese President Xi Jinping has said that “Democracies cannot be sustained in the 21st Century, autocracies will run the world” (echoing Russian First Secretary Khrushchev’s 1956 warning to the West that “We will bury you”). The Chinese propaganda machine has persuaded 83% of the Chinese populace that “Chinese democracy” – that is, Communist Party autocracy – is the optimal template and that the Western version of democracy is synonymous with corruption and waste. As a consequence, only 3.9% of the Chinese public respect the Western/U.S. model, a resoundingly negative change from only a decade ago. Propaganda works well in China … and in America as well, thriving in today’s social media maelstrom. Polls in America show that almost half of Americans, 49%, believe that American democracy is not working well – but “not working well” means only that American democracy is not perfect. There clearly is a need for America to address political animosity, income inequality, immigration, racial conflicts, and intolerance towards certain religions, races, ethnicities, and cultures …, but that’s nothing new. It’s been a waxing and waning part of American life for 240 years. Today’s political conflicts waged by culture warriors on the left and right provide grist for 21st Century misperceptions that are exaggerated and exacerbated by the media. For example, a recent Gallop poll showed that although 41% of Americans prefer a reduction in immigrants, 68% view immigration as a good thing for America. Both percentages are consistent with similar polls taken decades ago. Attitudes towards immigration are little changed, yet social media are filled with stories of conflict. The same is true in race relations. Although racist practices persist, that is a global reality and America has shown vast improvement even over only the last several decades – residential red-lining, for example, has disappeared. Polls confirm that 57% of Americans are optimistic about race relations going forward …, and 76% of Americans strongly believe in the superiority and durability of their Constitutional democracy. Autocracy is not an American alternative. Nativism (sometimes called “white grievance” or “replacement theory”) remains the view of a small minority. What’s important to Americans is personal freedom, equality before the law, and government accountability at the ballot box. America has each of these in greater quantity than any other country. Belief in democracy in America is the norm. Despite media hype, America’s Constitutionally-embedded Enlightenment principles continue to make America the Reaganesque “shining city on a hill.” Credit American diversity.

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Finally (from a good friend)

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