The Lt. Governor is wrong; multiculturalism is our hope for the future

The Lt. Governor is wrong; multiculturalism is our hope for the future

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest

It comes as little surprise that the inhabitant of the second highest elected office in the state of North Carolina would stoop to engage in the kind of dog whistle talk that one would normally associate with white nationalists like Congressman Steve King and David Duke. After all, as Policy Watch has reported on multiple previous occasions, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is a politician with a penchant for making extreme statements, taking extreme positions and employing and associating with extreme individuals.

In the past, Forest has co-founded a nonprofit that purported to rate corporations for their adherence to “Christian” and “Biblical” values (Sears got a significant downgrade for having lingerie in its catalogs), claimed that Raleigh’s News & Observer plants hidden and diabolical propaganda in its headlines, associated with a far right activist trying to rewrite the U.S. Constitution, and employed an anti-Islam conspiracy theorist as one of his top aides.

That said, this past week’s entry – uttered at a church, that, ironically enough, claims its mission is to “tear down walls of religion, racism, and poverty, which have bound God’s people for too long” – was quite a doozy.

In case you missed it, Forest delivered a sermon recently at Cornerstone Church in Salisbury. During the service, Forest issued a scathing attack on American “multiculturalism.” As Josh Israel of Think Progress reported last Friday, Forest made the following statements:

“[N]o other nation, my friends, has ever survived the diversity and multiculturalism that America faces today, because of a lack of assimilation, because of this division, and because of this identity politics….

But no other nation has ever been founded on the principles of Jesus Christ, that begin the redemption and reconciliation through the atoning blood of our savior.”

As Israel went on to explain, Forest’s new claims are (like so many he’s uttered in the past) demonstrably absurd.

After all, it doesn’t take an advanced degree in world history to understand that scores of nations have, down through the millennia, enjoyed centuries of relative peace and prosperity despite being comprised of broad arrays of religious, racial and ethnic groups.

Similarly, Forest’s claim that the United States – a nation whose originators forbade the establishment of a state religion – was somehow founded, and uniquely so, on “the principles of Jesus Christ,” is downright preposterous. Earth to the Lt. Governor: the crosses on all of those European flags aren’t highway markers.

The real crux of Forest’s sophistry, however, has much more to do with the message he was attempting to deliver than with his embarrassing ignorance of world history. Simply put, Forest and King and Duke (and Donald Trump and Stephen Miller) are just flat-out wrong about the desirability of multiculturalism.

Rather than serving as some sort of barrier to societal progress, multiculturalism – what Merriam-Webster defines as “cultural pluralism or diversity (as within a society, an organization, or an educational institution)” – is one of the great hopes of humankind.

Think about it: the world we inhabit has never been so crowded or mobile. Across the planet, billions of people must cohabit and coexist in close quarters like never before. Now add to this stew the massive and mounting pressure brought on by the global climate crisis – a factor that will result in the relocation of hundreds of millions of people this century – and the idea that we can somehow wall ourselves off or rapidly convert others to be just like us is quickly exposed as nonsense.

But, of course, even if such Trumpian fantasies were somehow realizable, that wouldn’t make them at all desirable. The truth is that the United States and all other nations of the world are much better off as they grow more diverse and integrated. Dan Forest clearly doesn’t get out much, but if he did and actually opened his eyes and ears, he’d quickly see that the American melting pot has been vastly enhanced over the past few centuries by the successive waves of migration that have lapped upon its shores. This has been true in North Carolina too – especially over the last half century

None of this is to say that the United States should ever compromise regarding its actual founding principles – principles like those embedded in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights that guarantee representative government, freedom of speech and religion, due process and equal protection under the law. These principles are part of the package that one signs up for when one becomes an American. Indeed, they are among the key factors that make it possible for people of different backgrounds and cultures to coexist in peace and prosperity.

The bottom line: diversity and multiculturalism are not always easy. Tolerance and the acceptance of change and those who are different will always be tough skills for humans to master. But practice can help a lot. And so too, can politicians who appeal to the better angels of our nature, rather than pandering to the worst.