Writing for the Dallas News (as a regular contributor), R. Scott Hanson remarks upon the simultaneously unprecedented diversity and division within the United States just days before the inauguration. Using historical examples Hanson points out that such times of dramatic discord usually come as a direct result of periods of equally dramatic demographic changes within America. Hanson doesn’t fail to note that this tendency toward ardent nativism sometimes leads to negative consequences; he notes that Irish, Chinese, and Jewish immigrants all faced prejudice similar to the attacks on Muslim and Latino immigrants today.
Hanson stays positive however, observing that these periods do come to an end, and that America continues to move towards a brighter and necessarily more diverse future as a country. Ultimately he finds the best case for the virtue of diversity in a description of 1730s London given by the French philosopher Voltaire:
“If there were one religion… its despotism would be terrible; if there were only two, they would destroy each other; but there are thirty, and therefore they live in peace and happiness.”
America is a country of many different peoples, with many different cultures, races, religions, and beliefs, and its founding documents encourage that individualism, freedom, and diversity. Given the current political climate, R. Scott Hanson gives us an encouraging reminder that the inherent, and ever-increasing pluralism of the United States cannot be denied or extinguished.
R. Scott Hanson is the Author of City of Gods: Religious Freedom, Immigration, and Pluralism in Flushing, Queens from Fordham University Press. He is also a Lecturer in History at the University of Pennsylvania and an Affiliate of the Pluralism Project at Harvard University.