We just finished ten days in beautiful Ireland. You can’t think of a whiter country than the land of the Irish. So, maybe, our white supremacist brethren should travel more often. In addition to marveling at the emerald, green mountains, rolling hills, lush forests, beautiful lakes and rivers, and breathtaking ocean views from towering cliffs to flat sandy beaches--and lots of sheep--they would notice who is visiting Ireland, who is working in Ireland, and who is living in Ireland. The answer is simple. Everyone from everywhere. Tourism is one of Ireland’s largest industries. The Irish have accepted diversity, not just because it is good business, but because they are a very welcoming and helpful people. They don’t seem to be too worried about being replaced.
Throughout our trip we ran into tourists from Germany, Romania, France, Norway, Morocco, Finland, and, of course, from America. As I walked the streets of Dublin, I heard so many languages and saw so many people living there who were Middle Eastern, Central and Southeast Asian, North African, Eastern European, South American, and so on. Our servers and bellboy were all Brazilian, and the hotel staff were Romanian, Serbian, and Chinese. Obviously, there were also a lot of Irish workers.
I am sure there are right wing Irish politicians and citizens who are threatened by these changes, but to the average person on the street, Ireland is becoming a diverse, multiethnic society, while still incredibly proud of its long and storied Irish history. This is the future, and it is happening everywhere. Kwame Anthony Appiah, the great philosophy professor from Princeton and New York University, asserts that cultures that resist change are dead cultures. Cultures that embrace globalization and the inevitability of change it brings, grow, evolve, and thrive. True, change can be destructive, but it can also enhance the quality of life. He noted that we don’t need to forget or abandon our cultural identities and histories while opening to the ways of others.
In the end, white supremacy and like-minded exclusive movements are based upon fear, the desire to hang onto some fabled past that never really existed. In so doing they divide the world into good and bad, and everyone different from them gets stuck in the bad category. What is sad is that this is based upon ignorance, on a true lack of understanding of the “other.” In dividing the world into these polarized categories, there is little opportunity or desire to learn, understand, discuss, debate, talk out, or compromise—to seek bridges of understanding. This is true of White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, the KKK, and many conservative Nationalist groups, as well as extremely conservative fundamentalist religious groups found in all religions—Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and so on. Sociological research is clear that these groups do not represent any where near the majority of people they claim to represent. Most people in the world are moderate in their outlooks —moderately conservative or moderately liberal—and less rigid in their views of others. The extremist, exclusionary groups are minority populations. Yet, they have been responsible for some of the greatest tragedies in modern history—African slavery, Native American genocide, Nazi Germany, the Holocaust, Cambodian genocide, Rwandan genocide, 911, the Darfur-Sudan genocide, and more.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great Lutheran theologian and minister, was martyred by the Nazis in 1945, but his vision of what constitutes a true community is still so relevant. “True community is not constituted by like-minded people associating, but by participating in mutual ethical relationships.” He personally witnessed in Nazi Germany and 1930s America how both antisemitism and racism shattered this community ethical contract because they stand for the ultimate association of like-minded people refusing true community.
I think we could all take a lesson from the Muslim woman in Seattle, who each Sunday invites strangers from other religions, races, and ethnic groups to her home for Sunday dinner. I suspect these people who knew little or nothing about Muslim people came away with a much better understanding of the “other”—she, as a Muslim woman and hostess, her family, and her welcoming manner. If we all could learn to break bread with the “other,” we would soon learn there is no You and Them, just We and Us. A reminder once again of our Universalist Church’s “gospel.” We are all brothers and sisters.