I am working on a book (coming 2017) with a couple colleagues that touches on the 1990s push towards diversity training. After Bosnia and Rwanda and a variety of other inter-ethnic bloodshed, the field of conflict resolution began to promote cross-cultural understanding.
We had hoped that if people understood one another better and could appreciate differences, then maybe we could stop the slaughter.
It was a hopeful and colorful attempt. There were cultural diversity nights filled with dancing and ethnic foods. We took cultural awareness classes and engaged in diversity training.
It was fun, it had some good sides...and it also increased political correctness. Those unwilling to appreciate others at least learned how to hide their intolerance so they wouldn't lose their jobs.
A dear friend said something the other day that caused me pause. He went beyond the political correctness as a repressive side-effect of our enthusiasm for embracing difference.
He said that America has given up on itself.
Did we make room for more cultures or give up?
Let me be clear...I love exploring other countries. I've been to 35 countries and still feel that it is an embarrassingly low number given how much travel is possible.
That said, his comment resonated with me. It was not until watching a few episodes of the HBO John Adams series. Have you seen it?
It's now available on Amazon Prime.
The show reminded me what an astonishing accomplishment it was to pull away from Britain, declare independence and try to create a lasting government that would appeal to all the colonies.
It's really amazing it worked at all. Or did not absolve after Britain was pushed back over the Atlantic.
Even though I live in Washington D.C. filled with infinite reminders of the colonial period, it's easy to lose touch with the values that inspired the separation.
The airwaves are filled with U.S. nationalism that often seems to have more to do with the U.S. military complex or anti-immigrant rhetoric. It's so far -- for me at least -- than the inspiring words drafted by these founders "We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal."
The words were even ahead of those who birthed them. They could not seen then that ALL people- male/female, black/white are created equal.
If you get to Washington DC, do stop in to the Archives on the Washington Mall and look again at the original Declaration of Independence. It is quite faded. You will barely be able to make out the words. Try anyway...the ink is fading and perhaps our identity with it.
Those are the values that make me proud to be a part of this country...They are not just elementary school history lessons.
Now, back to the John Adams series...I need to see how they prevented the French from taking over the new colony.