Please don’t delete me from your digital world while reading this. Give me a chance to explain myself. Let me tell you my problem, and then I’ll share what I feel may be the solution.
I Am An Ostrich
Never again do I want to be taken by surprise by the results of a presidential election. I’d rather deal with the anxiety of a ‘too-close-to-call’ race and sit biting my nails (I never bite my nails) through the night watching the states change colors from red to blue and vice-versa, or merge into purple. But this! This shocker! Why didn’t I see it coming? Was I so out of touch with reality? Yes indeed. I am embarrassed at myself. I am insulted at my ignorance. I am an ostrich. And that’s the problem.
I won’t even take it to the next level i.e. ‘so if I did see it coming, could I or others like me have influenced the outcome?’ Perhaps, but that is not the point. The fact that we didn’t know what in the world was going on, says a lot about us.
I Wannabe An Owl
Birds of a feather flock together. Heard this? Of course you have. Well scrap it. We are not birds. I had been moaning and groaning, wondering if I should fly South, still trying to decipher where I’d lost sight of my world, when I turned to the Op-Ed page of the New York Times and saw Nicholas Kristoff’s piece, The Dangers of Echo Chambers on Campus. Aha! I pulled my head out and shook the sand out of my eyes. Nick (we are not on first-name basis, but it is just easier to type) – so Nick is a liberal. Lets get that out of the way. Listen to what he is saying—I mean, read what he says, but really, listen. Bottom line: We liberals stick with our own kind, live in an ‘echo chamber’, insulate ourselves from anyone or anything that is contrary to our beliefs, and have essentially cut ourselves off from the world we live in. Nick really hit hard:
- Too often, we embrace diversity of all kinds except the ideological diversity
- We champion tolerance, except for conservatives and evangelical Christians.
- We want to be inclusive of people who don’t look like us — so long as they think like us.
- “Conservative” and “bigot” are not synonyms.
- Maybe if we knew more Trump voters we’d be less inclined to stereotype them.
- Embrace the diversity we supposedly champion.
Hmmm! Nick even puts out a list of suggested conservatives to follow on social media, their Twitter handles and all.
So, I mailed my subscription to the Wall Street Journal, and I tune into Fox News. I am not sure how good some of the Op-Eds are for my heart—I already take statins—I feel a surge of palpitation and a rising BP, but nothing that a dose of New York Times won’t cure. Actually, I am getting to like the WSJ. I like their reporting which I see as rather balanced, and I prefer their writing style.
There was more to come. NY Times readers know David Brooks well. He is a conservative. When I saw the headline of his Op-Ed, Home Buying Decision, I thought what you thought. And for a while, it was just that. Then he segues into the heart of it. Why do people choose the house they choose? Because:
“People move close to people just like themselves. Every town becomes a cultural ghetto while Americans become strangers to one another and the civic fabric lies in ruins. People feel more comfortable in their insular neighborhoods, but self-segregation is damaging to one’s own open-mindedness and to the country at large. In 2017 it’s probably necessary to put a moral onus on realty decisions, to be seriously bothered by the temptation to talk about diversity but move to homogeneity.”
Sound familiar! Of course not. Because for once in my newly found world, I see that liberals and conservatives are towing the same line. Get out of your comfort zone. Talk to people who are not like you, hang out with people who disagree with you, make friends with some one who makes you really uncomfortable, read autobiographies of people you disdain, and as David suggests, move into a neighborhood where you feel totally out of place.
If I May Serve Myself
When I am giving my Muslims in America lectures, one question that is always asked during Q&A is: How can we help you?
My answer: "Get to know a Muslim."
I say the same to my Muslim friends: "Make yourselves known, invite your neighbor into your home, your mosque; go take a walk in the park (not today--its too cold); see a movie together and huddle afterwards over coffee (latte for me); just, be friends, and watch the magic work.
I relate many such episodes in my book in the chapter 'Don't Ghetto-ize Islam'. (I warned you in my subtitle. As long as the owl doesn't turn into a peacock).
Audio version narrated by author