In fact, it warms my heart!
This picture perfectly represents the way the world should be. It represents two people who like each other and are happy to be together. They support each other and are not concerned with the apparent differences in their races, religions, or cultures. And yet, our world is not this way. For decades in the last century, the United States was referred to as ‘the melting pot’. The indigenous Native Americans were invaded/joined by immigrants from all over the world (Europe, Africa, Asia — anywhere there were people). People either voluntarily or involuntarily moved here. The voluntary immigrants came looking for freedom and prosperity. The involuntary were conscripted and forced to come. Regardless of why they came, they all brought their cultures, values, knowledge, and beliefs. The melting pot blended all of their knowledge, skills, cultures, and talents, producing a magnificent diverse population that became the envy of the world. That diversity still exists, but the melting pot stopped working. What happened? Why did the melting pot stop working?
When the melting pot was working, diversity was the broth that blended all the ingredients together into a rich flavorful stock. Unfortunately, unsavory characters added greed to the pot and it gradually spoiled the blend, creating the sour unappealing conditions that we are faced with today. The ingredients (diversity) that made the pot work are still available, but the greedy new cooks are taking away valuable elements of the mix, leaving an unattractive bitter tasting broth. The US still has enormous potential to return to the rich multi-ethnic cultural treasure it once was, but it will not just happen. We, the 99%, must not allow the 1% to spoil the soup.
The Constitution of our democratic republic provides the structure and processes for repairing and using the melting pot. Despite recent evidence to the contrary, many of our elected officials sincerely care about our country and want to do the right thing to make it a great country again. But many is not all. There are too many selfish elected leaders who appear to care more for their own profit and position than they do about the country, and they are using our diversity against us. In the good old days, we were friends and neighbors who supported and rooted for each other. The greedy profiteers realized that our unity gave us strength to stand up for ourselves and fight for our fair share. For the greedy to win, they needed to divide us. As a result, nearly every day there is negative news about some subset of our society that is intended to divide us and turn us against each other.
Consider a list of the groups that our population can be divided into. As you consider the list, think of recent news about the group. For every category, you can think of some recent news that portrays them in a bad light.
o North American
o Central American
o South American
o Middle class
Every person in the world fits someplace on each of the categories on the list. For example, I am a White, North American, Atheist, Middle-class, Democrat. Why? Primarily because I inherited those characteristics. I didn’t choose to be a North American Middle-class White person. I chose my religious and political affiliation largely because of other environmental factors. When I had a choice, I moved towards a condition that attracted me. In some cases, I chose to move away from a condition that repelled me. Today’s negative news portrays groups as repellent, thus dividing us and weakening our ability to support each other. That must cease.
Pause a moment and reflect on your subconscious internal response to the items on the list. Did some of them make you feel good. Did some make you angry, proud, or sad? If you had a visceral response to any of the items on the list, stop and analyze why. Our news media and thought leaders frequently have hidden (and not so hidden) motives for intentionally misleading their readers. Our comfort or discomfort associated with these categories is the result of deliberate efforts to skew our thinking. We are not born with an inherent hatred of others. We learn it.
Let’s play a brief mind-game. Start at the beginning — really — at birth! We begin by imagining a purely hypothetical setting in a hospital nursery in a totally integrated middle-class area. The parents are all non-racist — and some of the marriages are bi-racial. All the families have comfortable incomes. All the parents have the same high expectations for their children. All the parents have similar high expectations for the rest of the children in their community. The families represent all the major religions and cultures of the world. Although this community is hypothetical, it is not a far-fetched scenario. If you think about it, you may know of a community like this one.
The lucky children born into this community will play together and become close friends, totally ignoring the ethnic, cultural, racial, or religious differences. At some point during their growth, they will become curious and want to learn about the differences. This knowledge will not divide them; it will grow their bonds of friendship. Some of the children will be smarter than others. Some will be more athletic than others. Some will build things. Some will be artists. There will be countless differences; but they will not hate each other for their differences. Incidentally, careful studies will find no correlation between the individuals’ background and their skills and abilities. In fact, their differences will strengthen and enrich the community. Go to the local major mall and watch the young children in the play area. They will play and interact with total disregard for their differences. There has to be a lesson for all of us in their behavior.
If our communities are not like this one, what can we do to make them so? Start the change. Talk with one friend and get them on board. Then enlist another. Keep growing the program until it becomes a movement that creates reality.
Is there anything in this scenario that defies logic? If not, then what happened that we have all the intolerance and hatred in society? How did those innocent children become racist? Rogers and Hammerstein said it very well in their controversial song from South Pacific, “You Have to be Carefully Taught”
“You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught from year to year,
It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught to be afraid,
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!”
There is another meaning that we have been missing in these powerful lyrics. Consider the issue of families of poor people living on government assistance for generations. What would happen if the ideas in our book (https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/fight-poverty-not-the-poor-allan-c-jones/1144062370?ean=2940179096542 ) were implemented, and everyone had the opportunity for a job paying a living wage. How do we handle people who do not want to work? Why do they not want to work? After a brief discussion of the usual excuses, we realized that they were not born that way. They had to be carefully taught. Any solution we implement must include time to change the people’s self-image and expectations.
Why do intolerant racists behave that way? It usually occurs at the intersection of poverty and greed. If people work hard but are stuck in poverty, they can be convinced by people seeking to take advantage of them that ‘those people’ or ‘others’ are responsible. From there it is a short step to envy or hate them and become angry, misguided racists. Who is convincing them? They are the greedy ones who are profiting from poverty.
If poverty is the evil condition that causes so many problems, why do we have a war on crime, but not a war on poverty? The frightening but indisputable answer is the usual one — money. If you watch a crime drama TV show, at some point the detectives always fall back on the fundamental principle — Follow the money! There are profits to be made by the few at the top in the war on crime, but a war on poverty benefits the masses who have no power to fight the battles.
History has many examples of the masses being fed up with the elite getting all the wealth. Our democratic process may take longer than previous examples like the French Revolution, but the 1/6 insurrection may be symbolic of the first royal head’s falling into the basket of the guillotine.
Bryan Stevenson created two emotionally evocative memorials to remind us of our national problem with racism (see the link below). One of the memorials places the visitor face to face with lynching, the other connects our past to our current issues with mass-incarceration of blacks in America. They are both enormously powerful. Take a few minutes to read the article and watch the video. Then let’s return to our recurring theme. If they all were living a prosperous and happy life, would these atrocities have happened? Probably not! They would not have been in fear for their own economic survival, and resentful that those other people were a threat to them. In fact, they would have feared jeopardizing their happy lives with such unlawful and abhorrent behavior.
This country grew to its well-deserved greatness through two centuries of good neighborliness and a sense that everyone should have an opportunity to thrive and be secure and happy. We should all be dismayed at several recent developments. What would some of the industrial leaders from our past think if they could see what has happened to their great companies? The individuals who founded and led these companies made a lot of money — and they deserved it. At the same time, they paid the people who worked for their companies a decent wage and the result was a strong American middle class — with the ability to be good customers for these companies.
Today’s corporate leaders sadly focus greedily upon growing their personal wealth at the expense of the less fortunate around them. Poverty is man-made. It’s time to close that business. Fight Poverty — Not The Poor!