Friday, December 17, 2004


Making room

Much is done in the name of fairness and the first amendment now, as we struggle to come to terms with a much more diverse society than we once had. Finding the right note for this, allowing for all to feel included is obviously a hard job. Yet just saying, "No," over and over again to the majority culture is probably a losing tactic. Seeing what is perceived to be in the favor of one minority group, be it secularists, atheists, Islamics, cultural Jews or whatever, will only add fuel to the fire.

In your face telling people they can't have a Christmas tree but you can have a menorah is wrong (happened in Florida and New York).

California allows teaching about Islam that would get them crucified if they were doing it about any Christian group, yet it points up possible ways to deal with the fact that over half the population is religious.

Canceling a concert by a Christian rock group adds to the fire (although not knowing the scope of the program (was it during school? were they going to vet the groups music choices?) makes it hard to know if it were the right choice or not. But the perception of unfairness is also there.

Make room. Even in the public sphere. Especially in the public sphere. The public sphere is where we connect, where we dialog. You cannot expect Catholics to act like atheists, any more than you can expect to make atheists act like catholics, or baptists, or orthodox jews, or any of them to act like Zen Buddhists. Everybody has special things, that make them uniquely them. Things worth knowing about, folkways which make us richer, that don't threaten our security, even if they make us feel uncomfortable.

We have prided ourselves in the US for being able to accomodate, until fairly lately. Now we have a country that is asking the dominant sector to give up stuff they hold very dear so that a minority group isn't discomforted. Room needs to be made for everybody. A wiccan complained in a town in Washington about halloween. They didn't make room, they banned a holiday to make her comfortable. What about the people who enjoy this celebration (and a number of wiccans are in that number, too)? I personally hate celebrating that day, but you don't see me down at the city hall, trying to get it outlawed, because I respect diversity, and understand that in a country with no established religion, all these views are welcome, and customs arise based on these things which become folkways that are cherished. I made room.

Diversity means everybody gets to play, not just those in the minority. It's getting so bad lately that even secular symbols of the holiday, like Christmas trees (which really haven't been used much more than 150 years in the US) are getting banned. Next it will be Santa Claus, because he has roots in St. Nicholas.

Every suit that says we have to pretend that there is no religion in America because someone gets offended blackens the eye of the American politic, making the concept of freedom of choice of belief less free, more constricted, less a part of the American experiement. It may very well blow up in our faces.

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