Diversity versus division reverberated with me this past weekend. A roadtrip to the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains brought into focus the inherent divisions in the United States. Driving through what can only be described as the majesty of the Rockies, with its peaks still complete with residual snow, despite road temperatures on over a hundred degrees Fahrenheit was breathtaking, as usual. Driving through small towns and massive farm land gave me a better feeling for the people who call this part of the country, home. It supported the growing feeling that the Dis-United States is a far more accurate description of the country than the United States. Its no-one’s fault, it’s simply a case of geographic and geologic reality.
If I was born and brought up in the vast rural areas of Western Colorado, I can easily see that I would have no understanding, and no interest, in what happens in Washington D.C. or in the black neighborhoods of Philadelphia or Chicago. I can also see what my reaction might be if every time I turned on national news, all I would see would be programs and news on minority rights issues. I would feel isolated and forgotten, probably justifiably.
Equally, the opposite is also true. If I was born and brought up in the black/brown neighborhoods of New York or Atlanta, I would have no understanding, or interest, in what happens in the rural West of the country.
How on earth do you address this diversity and division, and to try and change the Dis-United States into the United States?
I’m not sure it’s possible without some drastic long-term strategies, coming from the national level. However, the chances of that happening are even less likely than the wish that the country will somehow, miraculously, come together on its own.
When I worked as a lobbyist in Washington D.C., I quickly realized that the residents of the “Beltway” lived in a little world of its own, totally isolated from the reality of the rest of the country. They were isolated from black, brown and rural communities, small towns, and everything other type of jurisdiction. They definitely have to power to change things but they lack the perspective, knowledge and interest, to take the hard decisions that might bring the country closer together. It’s also politically dangerous for them to do anything. Diversity versus division is actually diversity and division against the status quo.
Back to the question: How on earth do you address these apparently insurmountable differences? The only possible answer to “who can do it” is the Federal government. They are the only ones with the reach, the power and the resources. The problem is: what can they do, or are they willing to do, given their handicaps of understanding and interest, and their obvious levels of political self-interest and self-preservation. Its a tall order, in any sort of reality scenario, even if you eliminate the issue of “States Rights” from the equation which is impossible, if necessary.
I will return to one of my favorite peeves, as a suggestion for resolving this conundrum: The lack of a national school curriculum in the United States. If a national basic curriculum was developed for all public schools, and mandated for all private schools, many of these issues could be addressed, as well as many others. It would not only establish a common base for all children, regardless of background, it would permit content that addressed national issues so a better understanding of diversity would be encouraged. Federal funding of public education would also help guarantee equality of this curriculum across the country.
It would take generations to achieve significant progress, but Washington’s constitutional mandate is developing and protecting the future of the country. It is not the daily enactment of Band-Aids to push the problems down the road for the next generation of politicians to solve.
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