Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

I'm just trying to develop an online body of work (even if the work is throwaway nonsense) to advance my writing career.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Curse of the Diverse

As mentioned in an earlier entry, election commentary here will be limited between now and November. My wagon has been hitched to Senator Obama for some time and that's unlikely to change, unless he socks his wife on national television or publicly announces his admiration for the leadership techniques of Pol Pot. Still, while the John McCain housing flap has been overreported, overexposed, and probably taken a bit too seriously, a couple points could stand further analysis.

First of all, you have to admit it's pretty funny when a guy can't remember how many houses he owns. It's not criminally offensive, as far as I'm concerned, and it doesn't mean he's unfit to be President of the United States, but it might indicate that he's spending too much time on the campaign trail and too little time at home, er, homes. I can't even definitively say that owning one house for every day of the week means John McCain is out of touch with the average American--the phrase "out of touch with the average American" is at best a nebulous and misleading one anyway--but this fact, along with a few others, does seem to undermine McCain's earlier claims that his opponent is an elitist egghead who doesn't understand--:sigh:--the average American. That's not to say Obama understands. How can you prove whether you do or not? Which "average American" do you ask? Me? An Illinois farmer? A Pennsylvania steel worker? A California citrus worker? An attorney in Atlanta? A Las Vegas cocktail server? Who is average and who wants to be? I certainly don't.

All this "average American" nitwittery segues into last week's alleged big story about Caucasians becoming a "minority" by 2042. One hardly knows where to begin, but I guess I'll start with this: so what? This "big news" is more than thirty years away. Like most forecasts and predictions, this one is subject to change, but what is the role of the individual in this one? What is the role of scientists or politicians, except that the latter group should at least be aware of shifting demographics. Maybe the economies of South and Central America will transform into vibrant, thriving juggernauts, drastically reducing the number of Latino immigrants. Maybe Ireland will have another potato famine. Maybe Canada will merge with the United States. But probably none of these will occur.

But again, so what? The headlines revealing this "news" bordered on alarmist. Whites will remain the single largest group in the United States well after 2042. They may no longer be the majority, but their numbers will still represent a plurality. And the fastest growing group, known sometimes as "Latinos" and other times as "Hispanics", are hardly a monolithic bunch. Remember, these are people of the New World, so they are a mixed breed just like us. Some look decidedly African; others resemble Native Americans; still others have blue hair and blonde eyes (yeah, I know!) To the average observer, people from the Dominican Republic may seem very similar to those from Nicaragua but, except that they speak more or less the same language, there's no reason to believe they are anymore similar to each other than Polish immigrants are to Italian ones.

Granted, Mexico remains the dominant force in terms of immigration, but denying that America is, and always has been, a little bit Mexican would be like denying British Royalty is a little bit German. Mexico shares an enormous and heavily populated border with the United States and some of our current territory used to belong to our southern neighbor. Obviously, Mexico shouldn't dictate to us what our immigration policy should be, but neither should it be overlooked that we are, despite everything, friends and neighbors.

On top of all this, biracial people make up another rapidly growing group of Americans. These individuals may identify with African-Americans, with Caucasians, with Latinos, with Asians, with Native Americans, or with any combination thereof. Even moreso than most of us, they are not so easily pigeonholed and categorized. One might argue, in fact, that we are all to varying degrees biracial. And in a way, doesn't that bring us back to square one? You know, E Pluribus Unum and all that jazz? Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free? Or was all that just talk? Frankly, of course it was all just talk. No nation can ever fully live up to ideals carved on statues or printed on currency, but to stop trying on the pretext that some of us are simply "too different" from each other seems suspiciously like our citizenry declaring lamely, "The dog ate our homework."

None of this pie in the sky rhetoric means there won't be pain and hardship associated with these changes in the makeup of our population, but perhaps the best way to address this challenge is to settle down and stop treating it like a crisis. Nice and easy now. Muy bien!


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