Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Saturday night I wrote about a letter to the editor that was published in the Peoria Journal Star on January 20, 2006, page A4.  I labeled that post “Diversity?”  Tonight, I want to discuss a second letter to the editor that was published that same day.  This one is entitled “Our differences make America great.”  

This is a quote from the letter, “Our differences are what make this country so great.”  Yet, the letter does not give even one example of why that statement is correct in his view.  Perhaps, he gave examples and they were not printed.  That I don’t know.  I do know that none were given in the printed version of the letter.  Maybe, we are to believe it since he claimed it.  I don’t know.  I do know that I don’t agree with his conclusion.

Back when I was teaching American history in high school, the textbooks referred to America as a “melting pot.”  Without going into a long explanation of the concept, it was the belief that the many different peoples who came to America were assimilated into the society for the betterment of the nation.  People came from many different societies with many different customs but they put those aside for the “American way” and for the country’s growth and improvement as well as their own.

My own grandparents on my mother’s side came to the United States after being born in Germany.  My grandmother preferred to speak German even though she could speak English.  I had to say thank you in German before I would receive a cookie.  (She made fantastic cookies.)  Yet, she did not demand nor did she expect to have government documents such as ballot instructions written in German.  

Historically, that has been true for each migratory section of the society.  Rather, they worked to learn and do things as done in America.  They became part of the “melting pot.”  That was historically true for the Jews of Eastern Europe, the Irish, the French, and people of Asian descent among others.  They may have kept some of their customs, traditions, and practices in the family, the neighborhood, and the community.  Yet, in the larger society they would blend those same practices into the American culture.  They did not demand nor did they expect to be separate and apart from the American experience.  (This, of course, is a generalization and not correct in every single instance.)  They were part of the “melting pot” experience.

Last Thursday, I wrote about the girls’ basketball team from Morton defeating Richwoods, the number one ranked team in the state.  I said in that post that that particular post was not political.  I may have spoken prematurely.  The Morton basketball team defeated Richwoods because the individual members of the team worked as a team.  It may be trite, but an old saying declares “There is no I in team.”  

No member of the team was demanding that all five starters must score an equal amount of points.  That particular night, only eight of the members of the team played in the game.  One of those eight played for only about two minutes.  Yet, none of the members who did not play demanded that they have equal playing time in the game.  They practiced together, they put in as much official practice time as the other members of the team, they helped the team to prepare for the game.  Yet, they did not play for a single second in the game.  The team was more important than their individual desires.

Looking specifically at the differences in the players, a player that is a good defensive player did not say “I’ll guard the best offensive player on the other team, but don’t expect me to score.”  The best offensive player did not say “I’ll score a lot of points but I can’t play defense because I won’t have enough energy to score as I could.”  Another player didn’t say “I’m a three point shooter; don’t expect me to dribble the ball.”  

In short, even though they have different abilities, for the good of the team, they all have to work together and they all have to do things for the good of the team that they might not want to do.  The team is more important than the individuals on the team.  If that doesn’t happen, winning becomes less likely.

Rather than emphasizing the differences, I’ll take the “melting pot” any day.  The coming together is what makes America great!
As was said during the American Revolutionary War (I didn’t take the time to research the exact quote but it is conceptually correct.), “Either we all hang together or we shall surely hang apart.”  



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