You will perhaps note that the topic line is unusually full, but this issue cuts across all of the major lines in our society, and may be of interest to many of the stakeholders of our nation.
This starts as an education thread, because this was a question I asked of my students today in our social studies class. This is obviously a political issue, and will likely be a major point of emphasis in the ’08 campaign. This is also a religious issue, because one of the factors involved is how we view mankind, and that is certainly impacted about how we view or do not view a relationship with God.
Traditionally America has been called “The Melting Pot”. Now, when I think of that analogy, I am reminded of my mother’s beef stew. She would put everything in there, from onions to carrots, of course the meat and gravy, with some potatoes, peas and corn thrown in for good measure. No tomatoes, please. They just don’t fit in mom’s recipe. Then let it simmer for about….oh…..ten hours ought to do it. The result is a wonderful dish, where all of the flavors have blended together, and may retain some of their original flavoring, but somehow they also taste very much the same. It’s a good dish, and for many I’m sure it may fill you with memories of a good hot meal on a cold winter’s day. I wax melodramatic.
On the other hand, at its polar opposite is a chef salad. You know the type with the various lettuces, sliced peppers, radishes, cukes, roast beef slices, ham slices, turkey slices wrapped around slices of American, cheddar, and Swiss cheeze, with a devilled egg thrown in on the sides. With this meal, you can enjoy the separate tastes of each, and they ingredients retain their individual identifications, which make them unique. You can also enjoy combinations of the ingredients and debate endlessly, does it taste better as individual bites of ingredients, each enjoyed for their own characteristic, or does the combined taste of these individual characteristics which makes a totally different taste experience satisfy the taste buds more satisfactorily.
In our nation, not so long ago, well, okay when I was in school, which was a long while ago, we expected those who came to give up much of their individual identity, and to take on the flavors of the other ingredients – the meat – or in the case, the “American” cultural identity, and while they may retain their own flavor, it is subdued, and more or less overcome by the dominant ingredient, or by American culture.
Currently, the trend is for people to keep much of their cultural heritage, but to accompany it with Americanism. This method allows for the individual differences to be highlights in our society, and it also states as good as these things are individually, the real experience of tasting the chef’s salad is to have all the ingredients, with their individual qualities still at the forefront, but combined with all the other wonderful tastes simultaneously. Sounds refreshing, crisp and delicious.
So, what’s for dinner? A chef’s salad or a hearty bowl of potted stew? Both are good for you. Both are in their own way delicious, and there is no categorical better food. Perhaps one of my students summed it up best. The best dinner would be to have both, and enjoy a full range of what America has to offer.
I see hope in the future at times when I hear kids talking like that.