To me the idea of America is unique and powerful. This has nothing to do with any one political position, politician in office, politician who would desire to be in office, foreign or domestic policies or plans.
What makes the idea of America so incredible is a function of it’s unique history and nature. Please do not misunderstand where I am going with this. My praise for the idea of America does not excuse the genocide of Native Americans or the institution of slavery. These are tragic and spiritually debilitating legacies which affect all of humanity.
What I am referring to is the ability of America to assimilate the variety of ethnicities, cultures and races into a huge comglomeration and allow everyone who chooses to feel a part of it, do so.
My family’s history is but one of millions, repeated over the years. The only change is name, ethnicity and country of origin. Mine came from Czarist Russia in 1903 in which discrimination, an pogroms were the ‘norm’. The idea of America was the driving force behind my grandparent’s journey here. So too with millions of others. It was the idea and the realization of that idea that makes America what it is.
Now our country has not assumed this concept with ease or without resistance. Many ethinic groups in power have vigorously resisted sharing it with newcomers, with others. Many have screamed, ‘get our of my country’. Or ‘go back where you came from’. But the truth is–it is not THEIR country.
In other nations, there is a difference. If you are not French in France, you know it and so does everyone else. The same is true in England, Germany, Poland, Russia– and every other nation in the world. Lord Malcolm Rifkin, a member of the House of Lords in England whose family has lived there for at least four generations is still known as the ‘Jew’. He is not ‘truly’ English.
I see this idea played out every day on the streets of New York City. A glance around at each street corner will quickly announce the truth that this idea does work. I am unaware of this diversity, I am barely aware of it–I assume this is normal. A visit to many other cities or towns in the world will reveal a completely different perspective–there is a ‘strange’ similarity of faces, colors, appearances.
America accomodates even those who desire to maintain their personal/group identity. But even these groups embrace the idea of tolerance for diversity. Only those ‘deviations’ from the idea who plot its subversion need to be removed from the scene. The idea is too precious and rare to be threatened or weakened.
Buddhists speak of impermanence, of constant change. I accept the reality that America is a process. Groups evolve, new ones come in, old ones lose their power and influence. The continued strength of America is in attracting and integrating great individuals from around the globe. Their thoughts, brilliance, creativity, hard work….whatever they contribute…..is a manifestation of the idea in action.
The idea of America is simply this–anyone, everyone who comes with the idea and lives by it…..can call themselves truly an American. The idea is a gift to us all and this weekend is a time to cherish and meditate on it.