U.S. presidential line-up not very diverse . . . like every other country

During intermission at a high school musical last week, I walked past a display of patriotic documents and pictures in the hallway: Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, Gettysburg Address, and so forth. Accompanying were lots of pictures of our Founding Fathers.

Now because of my PTSD (Progressive-induced Traumatic Stress Disorder) I couldn’t help but reflect that the furor these images would induce, were this the Internet and not real life. At best, there would be complaints that the display could reflect more diversity; at worst (and unfortunately more likely nowadays) critics would jump immediately to cries of “white supremacy!”

Of course, on this President’s Day week, we have to acknowledge that, yes, all of America’s presidents have been white men, except for one president with a black father and a white mother. For those upset that the last 250 years of our history don’t represent their current, ever-changing values and what America “looks like” in 2018, what could be a holiday devolves into an online argument or (yet) another real-life protest.

some protests

Some protests actually mean something

Here’s the thing though.

For a country’s leaders to “look like” the majority population in that country is not – if we’re being honest – remotely odd in the human experience. Leaders in Saudi Arabia have always been Arab. Those in Japan have always been Japanese. Same for kings and queens of England, the sultan of Oman, and on and on. Yes, even Canada – that has only ever had white prime ministers – has a less diverse line-up than America’s presidents.

The only country with a more diverse line-up than ours is South Africa … and they can’t exactly preach to anybody about racial harmony.

While America’s line-up of chief executives don’t look like, for example, Canadian Virtue Signaler-in-Chief Justin Trudeau’s cabinet, the succession of American leadership bore the value system of those who may find that very line-up unsatisfactory. Even the notion of unity among peoples of different nationalities, language, and religions – but who still “look alike” – was an idea that had to be invented.

There was a time when Italians struggled to become a piece of patchwork on the American quilt. One reason we started celebrating Columbus Day was to recognize one Italian icon’s contribution to our nation as an emblem of all of them. (That’s also incidentally what the Godfather movies are about if you’re looking for an early Columbus Day viewing list.)

There was even a time when it was a struggle for Irish and English people to get along, which is one reason we make such a big deal out of St. Patrick’s Day. Can you imagine two groups in America more similar than the Irish and the English? And even that took effort.

It was ground-breaking 58 years ago when John F. Kennedy became president, simply by virtue of the fact that the flavor of his Christian religion was a little bit different than the flavor enjoyed by most Americans at the time. Nowadays, five members of the Supreme Court are Catholic (and three are Jewish, for those counting).

See, America doesn’t have a problem with prejudice; the human race has a problem with it, and America is the cure.

The gradual, ever-developing expansion of the American empire is not some grand offense to a multi-culturalist ideal that has always existed like gravity – America created multi-culturalism. If we didn’t, who did? Who else came up with the idea that we should all just get along but the United States?

You don’t have to look or sound like the Founding Fathers, and those who followed them, to still think that they were awesome. That’s the entire point of the Hamilton musical – an idea that, oddly, seems lost on many people who sing its praises.

And if that high school ever gets the rights to perform Hamilton, I will be delighted to come support it too.