The war we have to wage today has only one goal and that is
to make the world safe for diversity.
I can walk downtown in my city of 47,000 (yes, we still have a downtown) and be happily overwhelmed with restaurant options: Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese, Tibetan, Tuscan, Sicilian, West Indian, natural foods, Indian, American (steamed hamburgers, bar food), Mexican (authentic to pseudo), Greek pizza, Italian pizza, Greek diner (not actually downtown)—an amazing list, and I’ve certainly missed some. I am awed by the diversity of tastes, textures, colors, flavors, smells, presentations, and accents.
I try to envision my grandparents’ world before they came to this county. Their typical meal included potatoes and, on lucky days, chicken or perhaps fish. They traveled only a short distance from their small European village and had no idea what a snap pea was, let along dim sum.
Our world has shrunk. We experience global pleasures and treasures. We hear news from afar within minutes. We learn about cultures and people previously unknown. Sometimes, exposure brings us pleasure. Other times, we fear.
I am reminded of a conversation with a Catholic cabbie in Belfast, which, by the way, is still at war. (When the “Peace Wall” is covered with barbed wire, gates to neighborhoods are guarded and closed over weekends, and cabs are still color-coded by their drivers’ religion, The Troubles are just less deadly.) He suggested that problems in Northern Ireland will persist until schools are desegregated. “That’s what America did right,” he said. “You have to start with the children.”
It is far from perfect in the US, but we have come a great distance. Perhaps the cabbie is right; when we have a personal experience with someone or something that differs from us, we lose our fear and gain understanding.