Diversity and acceptance is on my mind a good bit these days. In the middle of one of the most contentious elections in recent memory, diversity and inclusiveness is a big component of deciding who to vote for. Listening to the radio today, there was a quote that caught my attention. Diversity isn’t just about including what you believe, it’s about including what others believe. Good and bad.
The power in the American Experiment comes not from pushing groups out, but from working to find ways to blend those opinions into a cohesive agreement. When you read about the actual Constitutional Convention, it’s quickly clear that there were MAJOR disagreements about what the direction for the government should be. While we wouldn’t consider the group diverse today, at the time, you can safely say the opinions were very diverse. There were delegates who attended the convention who ended up not signing the final document. Heck, the whole state of Rhode Island refused to send delegates. There was no magical 100% agreement. The Bill of Rights was an add on, and the negotiations on slavery lead to a war less than 100 years later.
The Constitution was and is about compromise. It was about understanding that everyone can’t get what they want right this second. Sometimes you have to build things out over time in order to get a functioning society.
We’ve forgotten this lesson today. People insist that their way is right, and damn anyone else. Anything short of perfection is unacceptable. You’re Catholic and anti-abortion? You are obviously a horrible human being, even though you are pushing hard for social welfare changes, universal health care, and are working as a public defender. You’re transgender? You’re an abomination, it doesn’t matter that you volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate 20% of your income to your church, and that you vote conservative on a variety of issues. We get so focused on purity of purpose, we forget that the middle ground is where compromise begins.
You can learn a ton from people who don’t think the way you do. I learn daily from a friend in Missouri who’s struggling to build a small business. I learn a ton about discrimination from friends who are white, who are struggling with how to raise black children they’ve adopted. I learn about parenting from watching friends as they try to balance their morals and ethics with the changing world that allows kids to access things using tech in ways we’ve never seen. I learn from public defenders as they rant about the way the system is stacked against their clients. (As an aside, all the PDs I’m friends with are Republicans. Chew on that a bit).
I’ll never agree fully with some of my friends on the Israel/Palestine issue. I won’t agree with friends who insist that you can’t be part of organized religion and still be a good, non judgmental person. I’ll struggle with how to find balance between religious belief and public interactions. I’ll struggle with how we balance law and order with racial injustice.
And that’s the key. I’ll struggle. I won’t assume that there’s an easy answer. Because I know too many good people on both sides. I won’t say that friend X has more value than friend Y. I’ll be like the Founders and say, we need to find a compromise. It won’t always be a good one. But for true diversity to flourish, all sides need a chance to come to the table and work things out.