We often forget in the heat of our arguments, that diversity is at the heart of our democracy. Without different parties with different opinions, convictions and proposals; in competition and ultimately negotiation, you have autocracy, not democracy. Today we teeter on the edge of a governing chasm, as some seem to prefer civil war to what they perceive as illegitimate governance. Autocracy seems alright with them, as long as it is their autocrat.
More fundamentally, we need to remember that diversity is the trademark of our existence. Diversity of life forms is crucial for life on this planet. Exit bats, enter more mosquitos. Exit trees, enter more carbon. Environmental balance is essential, and if we humans continue to tip the scales from one side to the other, the likelihood grows we will throw ourselves into an unpredictable future.
Since its origins, The Interfaith Council in Brookings has brought together people of many faiths and none: Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Baha’i, Buddhists, Native American Spirituality, Atheists, and Agnostics. All are welcome and participate in a process of exploring similarities and differences, recognizing the beauty and fullness in diversity.
Personally, as one who has taught World Religions, it is a treat to be able to call on friends who have been practicing a tradition all of their lives to share it with my class, rather than sharing my limited book knowledge. Diversity helps make a class great! Just ask my students!
More critical perhaps in our time, as the former President speaks about “civil war” at campaign talks in the southern U.S., and as the “white replacement theory” seems a mantra of conservative news and social media; more essential than ever is the importance and celebration of our racial diversity.
I will be forever grateful for my African American mentor, Rev. Robert Polk, who helped a young South Dakota kid adapt to New York City and its racial and cultural diversity. I will always be indebted to my friends in India and the U.S., who have guided me through a bewildering and often overwhelming country and culture on numerous occasions. Then there are Mexican friends who have made that country feel like a second home to me, so much so I want this to be a second home for them.
Canada makes the top twenty when it comes to racially diverse countries in the world. We do a little bit better in the U.S. than Russia. Our racial make-up has changed some few percentage points in the last fifteen years. Let it be known that in the midst of a resurgence of intolerance in this country, I wish my voice to be loud and unequivocal. Diversity is what makes Brookings, and the U.S., great!