To paraphrase myself, and why not it’s my blog, “Just as increased urbanization is likely in the coming years, we should expect our little pockets of homogeneity to be increasingly disrupted as we encounter and live beside more folks who are different from us. Perhaps no issue is more pressing for LiberalEvangelicals.”
What a wise observation I made a few weeks back! Sarcasm aside, it’s patently true. For most of human history humans have been able to count on the fact that most other humans we might encounter would share many of our most basic assumptions about the world and our habits of interacting with our shared social and natural worlds. We can no longer count on this, and while it is especially true for those of us living in and around large urban centers, folks in the “fly over states” are no longer “safe” from difference. So get ready LEs, no matter where you are, for a century of increasing multiculturalism. Chi-Chis is not going to be the most exotic restaurant in your town for much longer.
[To my chagrin, I learned AFTER writing the last sentence that Chi-Chis shut down all its locations in the U.S. in 2012. However, I will leave the preceding paragraph alone as a memorial to a once great chain. “A Celebration of Food,” we celebrate you one final time.]
Rather than try to demonstrate the demographic case to you and show that multiculturalism is a growing and probably irreversible trend, I’m going to concentrate on a much more uncomfortable fact and a probing question.
Fact: Difference is uncomfortable and even the most tolerant of us often chafe at having to navigate a multicultural space. There is no point in denying this basic fact of human life. Instead, let’s ask the important question.
Question: Why is it that the very same differences that bother us when we’re in our own hometown (race, religion, ethnicity, language, child discipline or lack there of, social propriety, to name only a few) do not bother us nearly as much when we’re on vacation? What makes these two situations feel so different?
My Hypothesis (and this hypothesis is hardly unique to me): We’re hardwired to perceive difference not merely as inconvenient, though it is that, but also as moderately threatening. “You and yours, ain’t me and mine,” to put the matter bluntly, and difference alerts me to that fact and activates my most basic instincts toward defending and expanding my own kin and in-group.
LiberalEvangelical Analysis: Stop it!