Trauger column: Diversity vs. unity | PostIndependent.com

Trauger column: Diversity vs. unity

Kathryn Trauger
Perspective

I recently saw a sign and a gathering for a "Diversity Celebration." Sounds like fun. Different people. Different cultures. Different skin color. Different ages. Different physical abilities. Different social groups. Different political parties. Different socioeconomic groups. Different religious beliefs. Different sexual orientation. Different. Different. Different.

So many differences to recognize … er, celebrate. Do a Google search and there are millions of suggestions for diversity celebrations in the community, in our churches, in our workplaces.

Apparently, September is Diversity Month.

Celebrating our cultures is a good thing. I enjoy Oktoberfest, Cinco de Mayo, Independence Day celebrations and Celtic festivals. It is great to learn what is special and unique about each of our cultures and celebrate those things.

But here's another thought, although certainly not unique; shouldn't we also be having unity celebrations?

If we continually spotlight how we are all different, would it not be wise to also celebrate and recognize how similar we are? When I did a Google search on unity celebrations, I initially received millions of results for unity celebrations for weddings. However, digging a little deeper, I found several communities have unity celebrations. These are mostly associated with remembrances of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and held in January.

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One quote attributed to Dr. King sums up my feelings – "We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now."

We are all in the same boat, and by continually calling attention to how I am different from my neighbor does nothing to create a common tie or bond between us. Soon, all we can see are the differences. "That person has a bigger house than I do." "He was promoted because he's a man." "That lady is a _____." (fill in the blank with "crazy liberal" "right-wing moron" or any number of other descriptive words).

"He's too old to do that job." "If we hire the person in a wheelchair, we might have to make special accommodations." "My family says I must marry someone of my own faith." "I can't have her as my child's teacher. I've heard she's gay." "They have strange taste in music."

It is true that we are most comfortable being around people who are like us; people with whom we have something in common, with whom we share an interest, bond or tie.

Yet, as a community, as churches, as service organizations, we do little to forge and foster those commonalities. We do nothing to discover how we are similar.

Former Post Independent Editor and Publisher Randy Essex attempted to get some discussions going in early 2017 with his Common Ground forums. We need those kinds of discussions. But we need something more.

We need the chance to gather together to celebrate our similarities, to talk about our common desires for our communities, to find common needs and ways to address those needs. We need to eat together, worship together and play together. We simply need each other.

As a nation, as a region and as a community, we are fragmented, divided, and angry — quick to point out what is wrong and different and unacceptable about those around us. My hope is that we would find a way to recognize and accept that we are on the same boat, but heading for the rocks. We need to find a way to pull together and start paddling toward a safe shore.

This needs to be a grassroots effort. I know there are people in this region who have the ability, the network and the determination to pull this off. Any takers? Or are we stuck in the politically correct merry-go-round of pointing out how different we are.

Kathryn Trauger lives in and writes from her hometown of Glenwood Springs. She has served the community as a member of Glenwood Springs City Council and chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission, and she currently serves as the chair of the city's Financial Advisory Board. Her column, Perspective, appears monthly in the Post Independent. She may be reached at kathryntrauger@gmail.com or at 970-379-4849.