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McMurray: An island without fear

BY NATE MCMURRAY

Freedom from the fear of others

Diversity is not just an empty motto. It’s an ideal we strive for because diversity brings strength. Even on a basic level, genetic diversity helps us survive and adapt. And cultural diversity (meaning drawing upon the ideas and skills of those with different backgrounds and perspectives) can help us find solutions to new challenges.To put it in silly terms, would the Avengers be better off with 10 Captain Americas or would it help to throw in a Hulk, a Thor, a Spider-man, and an Ironman? When different people with different backgrounds and talents come together, the result is strength.

Our national credo is equality under the law

The 14th Amendment states clearly that “No state [or the Federal government via the 5th Amendment] shall . . . deny any person within its jurisdiction equal protection of the laws.” Hence, our courts apply strict scrutiny to any law that intentionally discriminates on the basis of race or national origin or that infringes upon any fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

Have we, as a nation, lived up to these standards? No. Even a cursory review of education, incarceration, and poverty statistics is a woeful reminder of the inequality we face. But what makes America different is that the “dream” (as it was beautifully called by Martin Luther King Jr.) is for no person to face prejudice or prejudgment based on the color of their skin or the circumstances of their birth. And in America, no person should gain undue advantage under the law because of their rank or station.

But it’s all more than a dream really. It’s a goal. It’s an ideal we strive for. And let us never forget, despite our many failures, that the pursuit of these lofty goals produced a nation greater than any other—stronger than any other; not so much the gurgling muck of a melting pot, but the bound fibers of a steel alloy cord!

Division for division’s sake

I would not advocate that we should eschew laws that seek to remedy our history of inequality. But our Constitution requires that we review with great care even laws that seek to benefit groups that have faced racial discrimination historically. Beyond that, I would argue that we must do more (both on the right and on the left) to unite each other rather than divide each other into smaller and smaller sub-divisions of race, gender, or some other social subgroup.

Listening to conservative radio broadcasts a frequent attack is that “liberals are obsessed with race.” I can understand the charge for there has been a tendency among some liberal groups to emphasize racial, social, and even religious alliances rather than broad, shared ideals. I believe that this so called “identity politics” (political affiliation by social identity) has divided and hurt America far more than it has helped us. Far too often the charge of “racist” has been used to discredit and humiliate rather than stimulate discussion and solutions. And I fear that in a nation where victimhood is a source of power there is an enduring reason to allow the victimization to continue.

And it’s not just me who worries. Bill Clinton of all people (whose spouse ostensibly ran for President on a platform of identity politics) once famously said, ” . . . the biggest threat to the future of our children and grandchildren is the poison of identity politics that preaches that our differences are far more important than our common humanity.” I agree. It’s a great lie to tell the children of men employed in Appalachian coal mines that they have little in common with the children of men longing for work in abandoned Detroit factories. Leadership requires movements that unite, not that divide.

The threat of being vain and uninformed

Sadly, maybe even a greater threat to America is the rebirth of so called white-nationalists who have rebranded (and retweeted) their way out of the hoods and into tweed jackets. I have noticed in recent weeks several people who I am personally acquainted with post on social media clips of men preaching racism presented as logical fact. But don’t let them fool you. Maybe they have mixed up their message a bit by adding a little Ayn Rand, some pop culture, and a few nonchalant “Dude we’re not racists” disclaimers to make their backward message go down a bit smoother. But the cocktail is as revolting as ever.

As with the World War II Nazis, modern American Nazi’s (or whatever they call themselves today) also heavily rely on a twisted take on Nietzsche. It was actually Nietzsche’s brother-in-law (Bernhard Förster) who manipulated Nietzsche’s works to promote racism in Germany. The problem is Nietzsche hated his brother-in-law (and his sister), and by all accounts Nietzsche hated anti-Semites and racists in general. Look at his words. When Nietzche spoke of “supermen” he spoke of the likes of Plato, Pascal, and Spinoza, and he called them his “blood” ancestors. Hence, a Greek, a Frenchman, and a Portuguese Jew were all part of the noble lineage of the German Superman.

As for his brother-in-law, old Bernhard. He put his racist ideas to the test creating a white-state called “Nueva Germania” in South America. It failed. He committed suicide. The remaining colonists soon abandoned their dream of a white-only culture. But don’t worry, today their descendants thrive—largely indistinguishable from their fellow citizens in Paraguay.

Nate, why bring this all up?

It’s not as bad as it once was in America, but it could be better. We must confront the challenge of equality and diversity here on Grand Island, not because your preachy Supervisor says so, but because it will make us stronger.
Our schools struggle when it comes to diversity. Our government and municipal structure also struggles. And although it may pain you to hear me say it out loud, the specter of division and racism haunt nearly every debate I have faced since becoming your Supervisor. I say it not to belittle or defame, but I say it to call it out plainly so we can work together towards making our weakness our strength. If we want our community to survive and thrive in the decades to come—and if we want our kids to survive in the ultra-competitive and ultra-diverse environments they will face, we must embrace diversity in its many forms.

Remember who we are, both now at Christmas and always

Yes, diversity includes religious diversity. But as a Christian, I hope those who do not share my belief can appreciate Christ’s humble message at this time of year. Jesus was a Jew. The Jews traditionally hated the Samaritans, so much that they avoided setting even a foot on their land. Yet Christ taught the parable of the good Samaritan, and he visited with the Samaritan women at the well. And Christ admonished his apostles to teach in Jerusalem, in Judea, and throughout the world a message of inclusion and peace.  No one was excluded from his love.

I don’t think that was a weak message. It was the most brave and powerful of messages. May God bless you and your families during this season. And may we not live in fear of the world, but may we instead reach out to it and embrace it fearlessly.

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