Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Melting Pot (or not...)

If you're new here, this is a weekly column consisting of letters written to my grandchildren (who exist) and my great-grandchildren (who aren't here yet) — the Stickies — to haunt them after they become grups and/or I'm dead.

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Irregularly Appearing Imaginary Guest Stars
Marie-Louise -- My beautiful muse and back scratcher 
Iggy -- My designated Sticky
Dana -- My designated gentlereader

"Ideas—not identity—should be the driving force of our politics." -Orrin Hatch

Dear (eventual) Grandstickies & Great-Grandstickies,

[Gentlereaders: If you're in a hurry, or, one of the many people that read only the first few sentences of any given online article before moving on, let me save you some of your valuable time and point out that the quote above tells you everything you need to know about this particular column.

When I was a callowyute attending Catholic school during the transition from the Black&White Ages to the postmodern paradise we currently inhabit the subject of America as a great melting pot was mentioned by more than one of my teachers. 

What was meant by this concept -- not much mentioned these days so I thought I'd better explain -- is that America was a country/culture of people from myriad other countries and cultures. Also, by definition, ours was a nation designed to maximize the freedom of the individual.  

Freedom is tempered by the facts that we have to share the playground, and that with rights come responsibilities if we wish to remain as free as possible. 

Therefore, in order for us to all get along, we all had to willingly jump into a "melting pot" to create an alloy called America/Americans. Now, I can't remember if it was Miss Crabtree -- there were no Mss. (mizzes) in the Black&White ages -- or Sister Mary McGillicuddy that pointed out that the term American mosaic might be a better analogy.     

That is, America's a mosaic of customs/religions/moralities/etceteralities that are joined together to produce a work of art. Mosaic being the better analogy since in America you could follow your own star as long as you were prepared to let everyone else do the same. 

Well, theoretically anyway. 

That was the ideal state of things. However, on the planet Earth, ideal situations, which may be worth relentlessly pursuing -- as always the devil resides in a comfortable condo in the details -- are seldom possible, never sustainable.

The never-ending American experiment has suffered many failures and setbacks. For example, the struggle to end the national nightmare called Jim Crow, that was peaking while I was the (mostly) clueless callowyute referenced above comes immediately to mind.

Although utopia is never possible, much less sustainable, striving to reach it is laudable, and necessary. Acknowledging it's unobtainable while pursuing it anyway simultaneously serves to keep one's feet on the ground while still providing a reason to keep getting out of bed in the morning.

As I've mentioned elsewhere, I learned from Jordan Peterson that always reaching for better, and then reaching for better than that, is physiologically necessary to maintain a feeling of well being as it prompts my fevered little brain to generate my favorite hormone, dopamine, my drug of choice.

The Road to Tribalism
Alternatively, you can embrace Intersectionality. Intersectionality enables you to join all sorts of groups (tribes) of victims and ultimately construct a super-group (powerful tribe) of fellow victims who've been victimized in many/most of the same ways you have. 

In last week's letter, I briefly attacked Victimology and Intersectionality, mile markers one and two on the road to tribalism. (1) Begin by identifying yourself as a victim of some sort. (2) Figure out how you've been victimized by life in every possible way and in every possible context. 

Finally, channel your inner caveman caveperson and go to war with everyone who ain't us (the infamous them).  Crack the pot, shatter the mosaic -- winner takes all. Well, more likely, never-ending war ensues. Sound familiar? Poppa loves you.

Have an OK day.

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©2018 Mark Mehlmauer   (The Flyoverland Crank)

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