This country, once called the melting pot of the world, was known for taking in immigrants from all corners of the Earth and merging their cultures into ours to create a patchwork democracy. Melting pot is a term you don’t hear used much anymore, but more than any other nation, the term still applies to the U.S. today.
Sadly, it didn’t happen overnight, but over a period of time through strife and turmoil America grew to be known as the land of opportunity where freedom reined and personal beliefs were to be respected. Anyone had a shot to make it if they had fearless perseverance, conviction of beliefs and a willingness to work hard. Throughout our history, we’ve many examples of individuals that changed the course of the nation as a result of their willingness to stand up and be counted, many times going against popular opinion.
One would think that we would have learned from mistakes of the past. One would hope that only through constructive and open discussion of the issues, we could as a nation address the issues of the day in a manner that intelligently seeks to resolve any differences and reach a common ground.
Today’s hot button topics are many: immigration, gun control, same sex marriage, health care, war, religion, energy, the economy, women’s rights, education, environment, unions and big business. But there are many more.
It would be nice to think in this great communication age that tolerance and respect for the right to express one’s personal views would be paramount. But instead of encouraging open debate and discussion, we’ve continued down a prejudicial path. When all else fails, we resort to demonizing the messenger. I can understand a certain amount of trash talk among friends discussing sports, truck brands or burger choices, but on important issues in our nation’s most prestigious schools I would hope those institutions would be open minded and inquisitive.
Dr. Benjamin Carson, a pediatric neurosurgeon who came into the national spotlight in February after criticizing health care and other policies of President Barack Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast, has been asked to step down as the commencement speaker at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine only after making recent comments on same sex marriage.
His comments were based on his personal beliefs. Carson stated, “My thoughts are that marriage is between a man and a woman. It’s a well-established, fundamental pillar of society and no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality — it doesn’t matter what they are — they don’t get to change the definition.”
One of the petitions stated: “We retain the highest respect for Dr. Carson’s achievements and value his right to publicly voice political views. Nevertheless, we feel that these expressed values are incongruous with the values of Johns Hopkins and deeply offensive to a large proportion of our student body.”
In his public apology in the Baltimore Sun, Carson stated, “First of all, I certainly believe gay people should have all the rights that anybody else has. What I was basically saying is that as far as marriage is concerned, that has traditionally been between a man and a woman and nobody should be able to change that.”
With respect to the commencement, he said, “I would say this is their day, and the last thing I would want to do is rain on their parade.”
As a nation we must be open to tolerance and trying to understand both sides of the issues to reach a compromise. Each side of every issue has valid arguments, but if neither side is willing to acknowledge and address those arguments, we will only prolong the anguish, anger and divisiveness these issues create in our democratic society. The world will always be full of people with different views. As a human race, we apparently still have a long way to go in learning how to constructively deal with our differences and provide true freedom of speech.
Dan Alexander is associate publisher of New Market Press and publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.