I have two sons graduating from University next month. I am proud of their accomplishments and of the futures they will make for themselves. When they were little boys, four and three years old, we lived in Jackson Hole Wyoming. My third son was born while we lived there. Jackson is a great place to visit art galleries, but not extremely diverse racially. In fact, for the two years we lived there, two formative years of my son Lafe’s life, we saw no black people at all, with one notable exception. My boys were big fans of the A Team T.V. show. And their great hero – right up there with He Man, was Mr. T.
Our two year tour in Jackson ended and we headed for Logan and classes at USU. Not long after arriving in the “big city” Lafe and I were standing in line in the Safeway when a big black man pushed his cart up behind us. “Mr. T! Mr. T! squealed Lafe in delight. We all had a good laugh; I think our new friend was a little flattered. I explained to my precocious child that, “there are many kinds of people in the world, some,” I explained, “are black, some are white, but they are all people.” Winter passed, student teaching was completed, a job teaching American history to eighth graders procured, and the family was off for our traditional summer at Scout Camp. We were headed for Camp Bartlett above Liberty, Idaho. The camp director the year before had been less than diligent in putting away the facility. He had not drained the water lines in either the Lodge or the family living quarters. When we charged the lines we discovered broken pipes everywhere.
In those days (as in these) our council was blessed with a truly great man as its “Director of Camping”; the man over all the camps, and the one who always shows up when there is an emergency. His name was Jed Stringham, and he had been my boss or my bosses boss for most of my years in scout camp. When Jed was younger he had had cancer in one ear and the ear had been removed. He had a “glue on” prosthesis which looked fairly close to the real thing, and if you over looked the great scar on to which it was pasted, his head looked quit natural once he got “put together”.
That day Jed and I were under our little cabin cutting breaks and soldering patches into copper pipes. In the cold, wet mud of the crawl space Jed’s ear fell off. He stuffed it in his pocket and we kept right on working; yelling up to wife and kids through the back bedroom window for aid in testing the lines. When everything was water tight we crawled out from under the cabin, Jed stood up directly in front and only inches away from the bedroom window out of which my three beautiful blond boys were leaning. Lafe looked in wonder at Jed’s head and exclaimed, “Grandpa Jed, you have a hole in your head, Grandpa Jed, you only have one ear.” Then with a a profound look on his handsome face he opined philosophically, “Some people have two ears, some people have one. I saw a black man once.”
Lafe had learned this important lesson of his youth very well. All people are people and physical differences just don’t count. There are plenty of hysterical folks right here in the USA who could take a lesson from my wise son. American is a multiethnic state. Our unique nationalism is not based on race, or religion, or customs, or favorite thing to eat. It is based on the acceptance of universal truths that are common to all men. We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is this all inclusive creed that binds all Americans together. The truth is that all people in the world are joined by these same Natural Laws. Discord among peoples is generated by the unjust abrogation of any of these tenants of human living.
I am amazed that there are Americans, who, living under the shield of Freedom, and bound to their fellow Americans by these universal precepts, cannot see their universal application. There are those to left and right who seek to exclude and to divide rather than to include and unite. Some examples:
1. Types like Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton who benefit from churning up racial separation and hate. Whose wealth and power are based on convincing people that the bigotries of the past entitle them to victim status today.
2. Many anti-war types who believe that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are American aspirations, shunned by Middle Easterners who prefer living in slavery, repression and fear.
3. “America for Americans” types who cherish the blessing of America for themselves but refuse to share this land of opportunity with those who aspire to the same hope that brought their ancestors across seas and mountains to partake of the miracle that is a land of prosperity, justice, liberty and peace.
4. Those who cannot tell the difference between Islamic terrorism and Islam. Who talk about war with Iraq, or fighting Afghans, when what we are really doing is liberating and bringing the Universal Opportunities enjoyed in America to the courageous people of Iraq and Afghanistan who are our closest allies in the defense of those very values. Selfish political interests that attack Dubai in order to drum up votes, who pray on racist misconceptions of the ignorant to procure power.
5. Old fashioned nation states who define their self interest as more important than the betterment of the world as a whole, whose shortsightedness leads them to take bribes from terrorists and to stand as obstacles to world peace in order to court the favor of terrorists or escape their wrath. Red China, Russia, France, Spain, and a host of other third world nations who are governed by powers engendered by hate for America and hate Bush propaganda. I am encouraged that I have been able to remove Canada and Germany from the list above. It is encouraging that in both of these nations the Pro-Bush, Pro-American parties have come to power.
It will take some real education to prepare a generation of Americans wise enough to see that people are people and to engender and defend the common human values that bring the world toward the day when we can all be one world, under god, with liberty and justice for all.
9 months ago