Wednesday, December 30, 2015

I Don't Feel Excluded

This article first appeared in Eagle Rising.

As often documented here by this writer, almost all universities in the US these days have gone off on an obsessive tangent about diversity and inclusion. As to the latter, there is the concern that certain activities or certain holidays may make "others" feel "excluded".

For example, just this year at UC Irvine, the student government voted to remove the American flag from their work space because its presence might make foreign students feel excluded or uncomfortable. It brought national embarrassment to UCI.

To me it was strange because I have traveled to over 60 countries in my life and lived in three of them (Germany, Thailand and Italy) for a total of 11 years. The sight of their flags never made me feel uncomfortable or excluded. Nor did the playing of their national anthems make me uncomfortable in any way. When the anthem was played, I did what was expected. I stood in respect. It had nothing to do with me making a show of allegiance to that country; it was just a case of simple respect.

Similarly, I was once in Turkey on official business during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. It was not easy to find restaurants that were open for lunch. One evening, our party was the dinner guests of one of our police colleagues. We had to wait until precisely 8 pm before we could sit down to eat. We simply went along with the program.

Here is my point: I have never complained or felt that I was being excluded because I was in an environment where other customs were observed and different flags were honored. I realized I was in another country and just needed to respect the traditions and allegiances. I didn't complain when the flag of the country was raised or the national anthem performed in my presence. I didn't demand that Ankara open up its restaurants for lunch for my sake. I didn't demand that Turkish people not pray in public because it "offended" me. I didn't get indignant when Italian or Thai hamburgers didn't measure up to American authenticity. (I include that because just recently, there was a major stir at Oberlin College in Ohio because the cafeteria was serving Chinese food that didn't measure up in authenticity. I mean, what would you expect?)

At the same time, my life in the US has been one of cultural interaction. My wife is Mexican, and over the course of 40 years, I have been intimately involved with the Mexican culture as well as others. I am not uncomfortable stepping into another cultural circle here or abroad, something that has enriched my life greatly.

And you know what? I think the overwhelming majority of foreign visitors to our country do not feel uncomfortable or excluded at the sight of the American flag or celebrations of Christmas or July 4th in public places. I think in most cases, it is our wacko, left-wing activists who take it upon themselves to act as representatives for the so-called "Other". (I am using a new academic buzz word here.) I can say comfortably that at UC Irvine you don't often see foreign students involved in activist causes. There are certain exceptions, and I have often written about them here. However, for the most part, foreign students realize they are ambassadors for their countries and act accordingly.

Going to different countries means experiencing what the people in those countries do. If you show the right attitude, you will be welcomed and helped through things that are unfamiliar to you. Here in the US, we are a diverse people who come from many old traditions that differ from Asia to Africa to Europe and Latin America. In almost every case, the traditions of immigrants can be respected as American assimilation takes hold. While accepting the traditions of others, we have no need to apologize for our own customs and for our pride in our country. We don't need to hide our flag and remove words like "Christmas" from our vocabulary.

I mean, what are foreign visitors and immigrants supposed to think if we don't show pride in our own country and our own traditions?

1 comment:

Siarlys Jenkins said...

That sounds about right.