Friday, February 8, 2013
Good News From the Melting Pot by Kenneth John Atchity
I don't know about you, but I'm tired of bad news about how America is going to hell in a hand basket and that, with Obama back in office, "I have great doubts about the future of our country." There's just too much evidence that, little by little, the country, and the world itself, is slowly but surely getting better. Not to say we shouldn't be concerned about the greed, bellicosity, intransigence, and environmental havoc all around us. But even our awareness of these troubling issues is a vast improvement over the communications ignorance human beings were accustomed to until the recent century.
Aside from the sheer diversity apparent from all angles during the Democratic National Convention and the incontestable triumph of diversity in the ensuing election, three recent news flashes in particular make me hugely optimistic about the future of this great country, despite the doldrums we've all been experiencing the last few years:
(1) Immigration reform is now front and center, not only with Democrats but also with Republicans.
(2) For the first time in history, fewer than 50 percent of Americans claim to be Protestant Christians;
(3) For the first time, Asians outnumber Hispanics as immigrants to the United States.
What these flashes tell us is that the "melting pot" is alive and well and vigorously doing its job as, if you'll excuse the mixed metaphor, the Petrie dish for a more homogenized and more motivated U.S. citizenry.
The Republicans' overnight embrace of the need for a fairer, more tolerant, approach to immigration is based on acknowledging the reality that the Grand Old Party lost this presidential election by burying their heads in the sands of an all-white America that never even ever existed -- except in the heads of their most benighted right wing faction. It wasn't a coalition of women, Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians, and gays that ushered Obama back into the White House. It was the changing profile of America itself, toward embracing plurality as our primary national characteristic: e pluribus unum. Out of many we are one.
The dramatic drop-off in the number of Americans who claim to be Christians is the ultimate proof that our founding fathers' vision of a tolerant nation, where all are free to worship as their conscience dictates, is finally bearing fruit. I have no quarrel with "In God We Trust." It's not the word "God" that stands against the realization of universal fellowship; it's the engrained belief that "my God" is the only God, and that "you and your God" will surely be cast into outer darkness -- by the sword, if necessary. What a dismal irony that pro-lifers are willing to kill. Religious wars -- whether initiated by Christians or Muslims, Romans or Nazis -- have slaughtered more human beings by far than any wars fought over territory. True freedom of worship can only exist when the most adamant fanatics are willing to grant you the right to believe in whoever or whatever you want to believe in. Why in the world would you not grant others the right you're willing to die for? So it's good news that Christians are no longer in the majority. Their fundamentalists' attempt to hijack the United States government simply no longer has the votes. Thank God.
The increase in Asian migration proves that the allure of America as a land of opportunity and upward advancement, affects the most educated of races in the world -- and Asian education by far exceeds our own. Without the accelerated Hispanic immigration of the past 30 years our country would have a crippled infrastructure, since the price of union labor has made routine work requirements economically unfeasible at the lower end. We should be grateful for incoming workers who truly believe in the work ethic! A few years ago, four or five states had "significant Latino populations," according to the Conference Board's "The Hispanic Market in 2010." Today, over 30 states have significant Hispanic populations. Yummy burritos are now as available as much in New Hampshire as in the Southwest. Increasingly Hispanics are numbered among the country's governors, mayors, and congressmen -- and form the brightest hope for re-stabilizing the dysfunctional and decentralized American family unit. Why would Hispanics not be the fastest-growing financial segment of the U.S. population?
But the increase in Asians, including Indians, means that they, too, recognize the unparalleled opportunity offered here in professions like medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, and institutions of higher learning. They come ready to provide healthy competition with our home-grown latchkey kids which, I fervently hope, will eventually shake them from their all too common lethargy, apathy, entitlement, despair, indolence, and wavering belief in the American dream.
Hispanics believe in the American dream. Asians believe in the American dream. Africans believe in the American dream. More and more Muslims believe in the American dream. They come here seeking opportunity that simply doesn't exist where they come from. If that doesn't prove the power of the American dream I don't know what does.
As Asians marry Caucasians, Caucasians Hispanics, African Americans Asians, Muslims Hispanics, Hispanics Asians, African Americans Caucasians, we're rapidly approaching the day of "coffee-coloured people by the score" (to use the words of Cook & Greenaway's quaint 1970s song) who, in another generation or two, may not even remember the hideous bigotry that still rules so much of the less progressive regions of this country.
I don't know about you, but to me this is all invigorating good news. Change toward tolerance, change toward human brotherhood, change toward universal understanding is a good thing. It's change toward re-embracing the eloquently simple words of the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Remember the lyrics from South Pacific:
"You have to be taught to hate and fear."
Let's teach our children, instead, to communicate, to listen, to understand and love.
Dr. Kenneth Atchity, former Fulbright professor to the University of Bologna and professor of comparative literature and communications at Occidental College, is a producer, writer, and literary manager. His recent first novel, The Messiah Matrix http://messiahmatrix.com, is an adventurous exploration of how our world might soon outgrow organized religion.