Thursday, March 03, 2005

Tolerance

We seem to pride ourselves on diversity in our country. We call ourselves the Great Melting Pot. Our motto, E Pluribus Unum, says, for all to see, out of many we are one. We are such an accepting people, aren't we?

Did we learn this lesson of acceptance from the native Americans who shared their lands in an uneasy alliance with us? Or, as the Mayflower Compact states, that we were all in this as a commonwealth, a joint venture to share with all, what we had, for a common good, wether we were Saint or Stranger?

After all, the native peoples had accepted us. Literally saved our collective hides after that first terrible winter when over half the band of Pilgrims died. But things would soon change.

From that first band of English settlers in New England, we have grown to encompass just about every other race and culture. But, not without great cost to those who were determined enough to go through the hardship of even getting here, to the discrimination after their arrival. And, not just those of a different culture but those of different religious backgrounds. Yes, we were settled by a hardy band of Pilgrims who were of the Christian faith, but even they did not tolerate those who chose not to worship God in the way which they did (Quakers) or those who chose not to worship at all. One had to be a member in good standing of the church in order to be pronounced freeman or to hold any office...even dog catcher.

As the great migration to America continued, we had different cultures settling in different areas, hoping to recreate in some small way, the lifestyle of their homelands. Scotch Irish to the hills and mountains of the Carolinas, Germans into Pennsylvania and Ohio, Swedes and Norwegians into the heartland. The Chinese upon whose backs our great railroads were built. Even those for whom migration to America meant being chained in the hold of a ship, have helped to create our great country.

When we look around we see acceptance and tolerance right? Right?

Well, let us look back a bit at how tolerant we really were in the past and how tolerant we are today.

Gone are the signs in Boston's shop windows that stated... "No Dirty Irish Need Apply". Today you will find that sign behind the desk of the Irish American girl who works in the local teamster's labor union hall, and on St. Patrick's day, everybody is Irish! The Italians, Germans, Chinese all suffered their own brand of discrimination as Wops, Krauts and Chinks. The list is endless. Everyone has had a chance at the turnstile of bigotry.

Today we do not think twice about someone's ethnic background, unless, of course, you happen to be of Middle Eastern descent. I thought, wished, hoped that we had gotten beyond such childishness. Especially when the comments about someone's ethnic background comes from an adult who should know better.

"Press passes cannot be that hard to come by if the White House allows that old Arab, Helen Thomas to sit within yards of the President." Thus wrote young, brash, opinionated Ann Coulter, a "journalist" for Universal Press Syndicate, about a woman who has been covering the White House for over 60 years. This is journalism? No, this is mean spirited bigotry launched against a woman who has years of White House press conferences under her belt, who was the first female President of the White House Correspondents Association, and one who would not stoop to write such unjustifiable hogwash about Ms. Coulter's background, whatever that may be.

We need to move beyond the name calling. Move beyond the labeling of those whom we see as "different". Move past those who would deliberately try and stir our great melting pot into a froth of hatred and vitriol. There should be no room, no quarter given to those who persist in maintaining an atmosphere of hate and mistrust in our country.

Keep that in mind at the next national election.

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