By PATRICK COVERT
If a house divided cannot stand, why do Americans choose to partition themselves? Shared experience can unite people of different cultures and is part of what helped this “melting pot” of a nation survive all these years. So how are we doing it?
Growing up near a military post in a growing suburban area, I was exposed to people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. My school and church environments showed me that we were all Americans and children of God despite the diversity in the area.
After moving to Buffalo, I was struck by how Western New York residents celebrate diversity. Many houses have a flag outside, indicating what they perceive themselves to be: Italian, Puerto Rican, Irish, German, Polish, and others. I see American flags at public buildings, fire houses, and the like; I do see a few “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, but rarely the Star-Spangled Banner.
Are Buffalonians more proud of their ethnic heritage than they are of themselves as Americans?
There are festivals during non-snow months for everything from Dyngus Day, a traditional Easter Monday celebration from Poland, to the Puerto Rican Day parade, which has no historical basis. There are also the standard U.S. diversity events: Martin Luther King Day, St. Patrick’s Day and a Gay Pride celebration.
It was more difficult to find non-diversity related festivals, such as Taste of Buffalo, Buffalo Wingfest, and Elmwood and Allentown Art festivals. One thing I could not find was a Memorial Day Parade in the City of Buffalo. For that I have to get out of town. Independence Day gets a concert and two nights of fireworks, aside from the latter we are left to celebrate on our own.
Even the Juneteenth Festival gets more attention; a 5k race, a parade, and for the rest of the weekend, Martin Luther King Jr. Park is filled with street vendors, crafts, food, music, and all manner of celebration.
Our government is basically a two-party system, indicating that most of our leaders are members of one of the major parties. You’ll see the split between Democrats and Republicans if you find yourself going to a town hall meeting, or watching a U.S. House of Representatives session. They quarrel like children, their statements punctuated with accusations of evil on the other side of the aisle.
Conceptually the two parties decide what they like, then compromise. Dictionary.com defines compromise in a few different ways: “a settlement of differences by mutual concession;” or “an endangering, especially of reputation; exposure to danger, suspicion, etc.” So, when a compromise is reached, neither party gets what it wants.
Abraham Lincoln quoted Jesus’ declaration, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” How has the House of Representatives “stood” this long? The news media regularly reports failings of the GOP, or missteps of Democrats. Media covereage can incite public violence, as in the death of Trayvon Martin.
We are all Americans; we have not had a uniting event to remind us since World War II.
The“War on Terror,” which began Sept. 11, 2001, was a shared experience of global proportions, but has dragged on almost 11 years and has become an unpopular war, dividing us as did the Vietnam War. This internal tumult not only undermines our authority to exert global influence, but becomes an international embarrassment.
Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Is seems time to accept our identity as Americans, find common ground with our American neighbors and stop dwelling on what separates us. Every citizen in These United States can tell you what is broken, so let’s start repairing the house from the inside.–©2012 Patrick M. Covert
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Mr. Covert writes from Buffalo, N. Y.