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How Much Diversity Can a Nation Stand?

We're trying hard to find out.

By Will Offensicht  |  September 10, 2007

I recently attended "Diversity Day" in a small town.  Diversity day was a fascinating tribute to the different ways in which people live.  There was also a strong, unstated message that all cultures are wonderful and that it's way out of line to say anything against someone else's views on anything.

When the Italian police investigated the body of a dead Muslim teenager, they learned that Islamic law forbids Muslim women from having anything to do with non-Muslim men.  When she refused to stop seeing her Italian boyfriend, her father cut her throat and buried her in the back yard.  Was this "diversity" or "murder"?

Apologists say that "honor killings" are part of Islamic culture and that allowances should be made.  Does the fact that a Muslim man believes that God forbids his daughter from dating a non-Muslim mean he's free to cut her throat?  Nationhood is based on shared ideas, but politically-correct Americans say that diversity, that is, lack of unity, is good.  How much diversity can a nation stand without coming apart?

A group of Cambodians settled in California and continued their "coming of age" ceremonies for young men.  On his 6th or 7th birthday, I forget which, there's a big party where all the relatives come and brag about what a fine man he's getting to be.  At the climax of the party, he strips naked and all the relatives file through the receiving line to rub his genitals for good luck.

How would most social workers react when they heard that a couple had had a birthday part for their son and all the relatives lined up to rub his genitals?  Would that be a "good touch" or a "bad touch"?  Should we permit such parties in the name of diversity?

Then there's "conversational distance."  Asia is more crowded than America, so Asians stand closer together when talking than Americans do.  It can get funny - the Asian moves closer, the American moves back, they chase each other all around the room.  This sounds like "diversity," but with political correctness, a man can get busted for "sexual harassment" if he stands too close to a woman. Is this fair to Asian men, whose culture calls for standing closely?  Or is this unfair to Asian women, who are culturally attuned to putting up with things that an American woman wouldn't?

What about "female circumcision?"  In parts of Africa, when a girl comes of age, her relatives grab her and slice off portions of her genitalia.  The pain is supposed to make it less likely that she'll cheat on her husband, but is this "diversity" or "assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm"?  Most Americans would say that a man who carves body parts off of his daughter with a razor ought to get some serious jail time even if her mother helps him do it.

Then there's shooting stray cats.  On September 1, p 1, the Wall Street Journal told of a bird lover in Texas who shot a cat that was stalking an endangered species of bird.  The cat was being fed by a man who claimed that the cat was his pet.  A jury will decide whether the cat was a pet or not.  Shooting someone else's animal in Texas is worth several years in jail.

If we can't decide between the bird lovers and the cat lovers without a jury trial, how are we going to decide what to do about "honor killing," "female circumcision," and other facets of "diversity"? To ceremoniously outlaw them is to make a societal judgment on which diversities are good and which are not.

We live in interesting times.