by Betsy Gross
I grew up in Edina, Minnesota and New Canaan, Connecticut. Anyone who knows about America’s suburbs will recognize these two places as being among the most exclusive in America. I tell you this because, while as a child I lived in privilege, in reality these two towns also suffered from being cultural wastelands.
I mean to define cultural diversity not in terms of exposure to the wide array of knowledge and arts we were all so fortunate to have made available to us by virtue of being raised amid such plenty. Unbeknownst to us, we floated atop an accumulated mountain of wisdom, history, and opportunity that we took for granted when really, it was just so unique and we were just so incredibly fortunate.
Instead I mean to define it in terms of exposure to – and developing abiding lifelong relationships with – people who don’t look like me and whose lives never remotely resembled mine. Shortly after leaving home for the final time, it hit me with a thunderclap – I’d been deprived! My childhood didn’t begin to prepare me for what was to come. “Cultural diversity,” such as it was, was relegated to the irrelevant distinctions among various mainline religious institutions.
I purposely picked a college in a multi-ethnic and multi-racial city (Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio), married a man very unlike me in background and outlook, and then lived with purpose in neighborhoods within cities wherein “difference” was the operational word, not “similarity.” I never reached the end of being amazed by the endless ways to fashion and live one’s life. Back in those days, these kinds of places were called America’s true “melting pots,” later more accurately described as “salad bowls”.
No more, now. We’ve re-segregated with a vengeance after the heyday of cultural pluralism. We are retrenching at breakneck speed, undoing the liberal laws and mores that served to bring us together with dignity and inspire us to become more equal. This sorrowful trend has culminated with the election of our current President, who exists in large part due to the very existence of the President who came before him.
Hopefully our current experience of living under the leadership of a narcissistic racist/ misogynist continues to inspire us to resist en masse as we did back in the ’60’s and 70’s, and to re-establish the norms and values I have always strived to uphold both personally and for my country.
Author’s Bio: Betsy Gross was born and raised mostly in Minnesota. She graduated from college in Cleveland and married an Ohio boy, a Bio-Medical Engineer. They moved to San Diego where they raised their two kids. During her work life Betsy was a career public servant and licensed mental health professional, specializing in treating victims of physical and sexual abuse. She has lived in Bellingham since 2003 and has one granddaughter, who is the love of her life.