Several years ago, a large media circus was made out of a certain courthouse in the south who had a monument on government property with quotes from the Old Testament book of Exodus; the ten commandments. As I was listening to this debate unfold, and hearing the impassioned arguments of all sides, I came to a pretty basic conclusion…”Can’t we all just get along?”
America has long been a nation of misfits and immigrants. Most of our fore bearers came to this country to flee persecution, gain new liberties, or experience the freedom of a healthy free-market economy.
The gist is this: we need to be a society of inclusion. Consider the word inclusion. It indicates that everyone is involved. Everyone has a seat at the table. Everyone has a stake in the game.
It’s not tolerance. Tolerance connotes that you are simply ‘putting up with’ or ‘enduring’ someone else’s point of view.
It’s not acceptance, either. You can still disagree with others’ values and choices while still valuing and listening to them.
Inclusion means we are giving everyone a voice, and considering everyone’s viewpoint.
I don’t see anything wrong with having a monument of the Ten Commandments in my town. I would also have nothing against a monument to the Seven Avatars of Vishnu, should someone so choose to fund it. I feel that both can equally contribute something to our society. The beauty of the American constitution is that both of them will be treated equally under the eyes of the government.
This principle can be successfully applied to many of the values issues and moral debates that we face as a nation; school prayer, gay rights, immigration, etc.
Let’s take one of the simple ones: school prayer. Many who were raised with publicly performed prayers in school seem to think our current educational system has become godless by prohibiting the practice of public prayer. However, this policy has not taken prayer out of school. In fact, it has probably allowed more prayers in our schools. Now students from all denominations. who understand and practice prayer in various different ways. feel free to do so in their own personal way. In effect, we have freed students to practice their own prayers, their own religion, by themselves and on their own time.
I understand that this is an idealistic perspective, and that in practice it is not always possible to accommodate everyone. We’re obviously not going to be able to fit 10 different religious slogans on our quarter, so for now we stick with our history: “In God We Trust.”
But this should be the basic starting point for the debate about these issues. We should begin the discussion by saying, “hey… how can we best include our fellow human’s rights and beliefs in this discussion.”