The Great American Melting Pot

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All you readers of a certain age remember Schoolhouse Rock, right? Everyone loved Schoolhouse Rock as a kid. Remember this one? The Great American Melting Pot As was the case with most of the Schoolhouse Rock videos, I just kind of dug the tune as a kid and didn’t pay much attention to the message. But what an accurate message it delivers – we are a melting pot. We are a nation that has brought together so many disparate people and cultures into one beautiful mixture that makes us not only more unique, but also stronger than any nation on the planet.

I’ve written here before about my feelings on diversity, so I won’t rehash them in their entirety. But I will just reiterate what the Navy taught me about diversity – it is undeniably a strength. Having people from every walk of life made the Navy so much stronger than it would have been had we been a more homogeneous organization. Diversity does the exact same thing for us as a nation – it makes us stronger. Valuing the diversity we have and recognizing it as a strength only helps us all. It is such an advantage for us to be able to count on contributions from men, women, and transgender Americans; from whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans; from Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, and atheists; from rich, middle class, and poor Americans; from those who speak English as their primary language, those who speak English as a secondary language, and those who do not speak English at all; and from straight, gay, and bisexual Americans.

And that’s what has me thinking about diversity today – the desire to discriminate against non-heterosexual Americans that has become so prevalent today exemplified in the ridiculous, bigoted, and unnecessary “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” recently passed in Indiana. What was the motivation to pass this bill? Had religious freedom in Indiana been eliminated? Did it need to be “restored?” Of course not. This was clearly a move by the GOP and the religious right in Indiana to infringe upon the civil rights of the LGBT community. They wanted religious people in business to be able to deny service to members of the LGBT community.

Why alienate and ostracize these Americans? Didn’t we decide in 1964 that segregation, discrimination, and inequality are not what we’re about as a nation? Didn’t we make a commitment then to allow for the fair and equal treatment of all? So why does this Republican and religious segment of the population want us to go backwards?

Look, we don’t all have to like each other to be a great nation. We don’t all have to approve of how each citizen lives their life, the decisions they make, how they dress, what music they listen to, what kind of food they eat, what deity they do or do not worship, what language they speak, where they live, or who they love to be a great nation. But we MUST value and appreciate the diversity of our citizenry, we MUST support equal access to and protection of the law for each citizen, and we MUST recognize the humanity in each of our citizens in order to be a great nation.

And that’s my biggest issue with the religious right – they want special privilege. They want our laws to be based on their beliefs. They want our schools to teach their beliefs. They want our elected officials to adhere to their beliefs. They want to perpetuate the myth that our country was founded on their beliefs. Well religious right – no. We are not now, nor have we ever been a Christian nation. We are a secular nation. There was a time when Christian theocracies dominated the planet. It was called the Dark Ages for good reason. I fully support everyone’s right to worship whomever they want however they see fit. But that worship doesn’t get to extend into the public square. It doesn’t get to infringe on anyone else’s rights of citizenship.

The good news I think is that the vast majority of Americans, including a majority of “people of faith,” do not agree with this push to legalize discrimination. The vast majority of Americans know that we made the right decision in 1964 and want to see us continue to move in the direction of progress and equality. Look at how quickly that pizza parlor had to shut its doors after voicing their intent to use the law to discriminate against the LGBT community.

That said, if most Americans don’t want to see these types of laws passed, why are they being passed? Enter your GOP. The GOP is controlled by two interests: the super-rich and the religious right. Isn’t it interesting that every major potential Republican Presidential candidate supports the RFRA and Governor Pence’s actions related to the RFRA? Why do the ALL the Republican candidates support such an unpopular viewpoint? Because the Republican electorate has been overrun by these tea partying types who want to see us regress on the issue. The candidates know they have to appeal to their base. And their base is a scary lot.

But they’ll die soon. The youth will take their place and I have a lot of confidence in the youth. Our young people look at being gay the way that my generation looked at being left-handed. No big deal. Something you’re born with.

The question for the GOP is what is the long range plan? What do you intend to do as your base dies and isn’t able to teach their bigotry to the next generation in large enough numbers to get you elected? You’ll either return to a more centrist party of reasonable people that is inclusive of all Americans or you’ll have to die too.

I’m fine with either decision.

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