Don’t give up on the American experiment

KPC News Service

The events of 2015 have reminded us that it is stubbornly ingrained human nature to be suspicious of someone who is different.

Different race, different religion, different language, different culture, different sexual orientation — all of them trigger a natural instinct to exclude instead of include.

We see it now in the refugee crisis in Europe. We’ve seen it in the streets of Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri. We’ve seen it in the debate over the United States-Mexico border. We’ve seen it in conflict over gay marriage in our neighboring state to the south.

As we strive to live up to America’s founding ideal that all men are created equal and the motto on our Statue of Liberty, we’ve found ourselves severely tested.

If sometimes the United States stumbles, it’s because we’re attempting a task with a high degree of difficulty that virtually no major nation has even tried to accomplish.

No major nation has tried to accommodate as much diversity as the United States, with our large segments of people whose ancestral origins are in Europe, Africa, Latin America, Asia and, in growing numbers, the Middle East.

Recent decades have seen a trend by Americans to emphasize and celebrate what is different about each of our groups. That can be healthy, as long as it doesn’t overshadow the idea that we are Americans first and foremost. This is not the time to give up on the idea of one America and start fractionalizing ourselves.

All the conflicts we see across our nation could make us discouraged, but instead it’s time to give ourselves a pat on the back for succeeding as well as we have at the incredibly difficult American experiment. We have made great strides forward from 50 years ago or 100 years ago.

In the months ahead, we’ll face a new test from the refugee crisis that now is overwhelming Europe. How will the United States respond? The poem attached to the Statue of Liberty still should be our guide, when it says:

Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

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