Joseph Cotto, 6/7/2016 [Archive]

Is It So Hard To Just Bring People Together?

Editor's note: This column was originally published at Blogcritics Magazine

By Joseph Cotto

With this November's presidential election coming up, everyone seems to be talking about America's changing demographics — specifically how these might weigh on the fortunes of Donald Trump.

Many things can be, and are, said about our country. However, one of these is undeniably true: We have always been a nation of many different types of people. Different not only in terms of personality, social standing, or religion, but ethnic and racial background. In no other country can one find so many individuals having ancestors from opposite ends of the Earth.

Those in academia and the media often squabble over whether to call our nation a salad bowl or a melting pot. Traditionally, the melting pot approach has worked best, but no shortage are ordering the salad bowl these days.

Beyond any of this, the United States offers a view of the world from an unparalleled outlook — sort of like standing on a mountaintop and watching the cities bustling below.

To fully appreciate the liberties afforded citizens and legal residents, take a good look at your own family lineage, then delve into the history associated with it. You might discover wonderfully pleasant or shockingly embarrassing facts. In all likelihood, variations of both will surface.

In any case, a profound degree of personal knowledge should be gained. This can be built on to avoid the mistakes of your ancestors, as well as to grow their successes. The past can serve as a key to unlock many doors that we struggle to open in the present. Learning about it might bring a wealth of new opportunities — many of which we might not have even known existed.

Focusing too much on your race or ethnicity, though, can present serious problems.

When one develops an attitude of tribalism, inevitably leading to the point of placing group identity above individual merit, terrible things will surely follow. This is why I treat my own heritage in a strictly relativistic manner; what my forefathers experienced was exactly that, and it does not give me the excuse to take up qualms in the present day.

I believe that if more were to share my stance, society would avoid needless and destructive conflicts. After all, whether it be in friendship or at the human resources office, people deserve judgment on the basis of aptitude and character — not skin pallor or ancestral origin.

During the years ahead, it will be paramount for minority and majority groups alike to find common ground. The best method for this is assimilation. Obviously, that must come with respect for foreign customs and standards. Immigrants and others need not be forced to forget their respective ancestral cultures.

However, expecting America's longstanding Anglocentric macro-culture to change on a dime is preposterous at best, and offensive at worst. Such a thing would surely lead to Balkanization, and at that stage, various demographic groups would be placed in competitive positions.

That is one of the worst situations imaginable, and can be counted on to bring about unimaginable conflict.

By focusing on issues that bring people together rather than drive them apart, we can ensure that our country's social fabric will be strong enough to endure trials and tribulations of the twenty-first century.

Sadly, recognizing this is what must be done appears the greatest challenge of our time.

Copyright 2016 Joseph Cotto, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Joseph Cotto is a historical and social journalist, and writes about politics, economics and social issues. Email him at

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