My community is both a state capital and a college town, which means I live in a geographic bastion of political correctness. To wit: A recent headline in my hometown newspaper actually read: “Celebrating diversity.”
Setting aside the lack of journalistic brainpower that prompted such a cliché – above the fold, no less – the story about a “multicultural appreciation event” (formerly known as an “ethnic festival”) offered up just one more example of the general obsession with multiculturalism as an end in and of itself.
With Thanksgiving and the Judeo-Christian holidays upon us, I fully expect a series of equally creative headlines in the coming weeks such as “Giving thanks for diversity,” “Interfaith services celebrate diversity,” and “Holiday meals celebrate diversity.”
Truly, the most fervent among the diversity movement are headline writers.
By now we’re all accustomed to the hijacking of religious holidays for both consumerism and multiculturalism, but I confess I still bristle at the usurpation of Thanksgiving as a red-letter day for the diversity movement. To use our national holiday as yet another opportunity to point out that we are not all the same only adds to the gnawing sense that America is a fractured culture.
In my mind, there is nothing as quintessentially American as Thanksgiving, with all the Rockwellian myth and traditions that surround it. For generations, Americans of every race, religion and ethnic origin have put their own spin on Thanksgiving celebrations, seamlessly adopting the holiday as their own while creating regional differences that reflect our rich identity as a melting pot. Thus wild rice stuffing in the north, corn bread stuffing down south.
Thanksgiving also puts us in mind of family and friends, and of the bonds of community we share in our neighborhoods, churches and schools. This holiday reminds us that we are blessed with love and friendship, and it invites us to live gratefully for the relationships that give meaning to our lives. To redefine it as a time to focus on what makes us different, rather than what makes us similar, undermines the significance of a national holiday.
Then again, the multicultural movement itself may undermine exactly the goals it purports to achieve. To a certain extent, people can be made to follow behavioral guidelines that reflect someone’s definition of sensitivity (some would argue oversensitivity), but they can’t be forced to appreciate or understand one another, no matter how many diversity-training sessions or multicultural festivals you offer or how many policies and regulations you put in place.
Assuming the goals of multiculturalism are to end prejudice and injustice by creating a bond fraternity between citizens, and to promote a widespread sense of belonging and inclusion in society, we need to stop taking a highlighter pen to the laundry list of racial and ethnic differences between us and boldly reassert our Westernism as the defining American culture.
This Thursday, millions of Americans of all ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds will gather around tables of family and friends to break bread and give thanks.
Let’s make it a prayer of gratitude for our shared experience of American life that is still the envy of the world, and which still beacons many to become one American people.