Snapshots of Life

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Final Papers

The semester is coming to a close! Not without a number of final papers though. I thought I would post a section from my paper that I am just finishing for my "Multicultural Diversity" course. I've thought about this stuff a lot lately, so here it is:

To be honest I am still in the process of formulating my personal beliefs and opinions regarding cultural diversity. That may be a long-term and ongoing process. However, throughout the course of the semester I have been able to clarify some thoughts and solidify some beliefs that I find valuable. For example, I have often been perplexed by the instruction in the social sciences that we must not be “color-blind” nor “color-biased”. The principle here seems to be that we ought to recognize an individual’s race, ethnicity, etc. to provide some general understanding of where an individual comes from and what they’ve experienced; while at the same time abstaining from pre-judgments and biased notions. This tight rope of political correctness can at times feel very shaky, particularly for a white, Anglo-American, Judeo-Christian, male who seems to have the highest potential for unintentional political-wrongness.

As I have studied the scriptures I have understood an almost entirely different message than that espoused by the doctrine of the social sciences, which admittedly has resulted in some personal dissonance. For example, in 2nd Nephi we read, “…and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.” Furthermore, in 4th Nephi during the millennial-like era following Christ’s visit to the Americas we learn, “that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people…and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God. There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ.” In my mind the obvious truth derived from these scriptural passages is at odds with the philosophies of the world. That is, the scriptures seem to be teaching that we should focus more on what we share as children of God that unites us, rather than on what we do not share that “diversifies” us.

As I have reflected upon these principles during the semester I have come to some tentative conclusions, which are certainly open to debate and debunking. I do believe that it is important to understand and even appreciate another person’s life circumstances, which may include all of the categories we use when talking about “diversity”; gender, race, culture, sexual orientation, language, religion, and so on. We live in an imperfect world that has far too often been, and far too often still is, plagued by hate, oppression, prejudice, and misunderstanding. Under such conditions it is difficult to fully understand the whole person without understanding the effects of these evils on the society from which he or she comes. Furthermore, our experiences in our socioeconomic, political, cultural, historical, and religious environment give meaning to who we are and shape the things we do. Nonetheless, mitigating all of these points are two simple facts, namely: that we are all unique and distinct individuals even within defined groups, and that we all belong to the human family at-large.

Having said that I have come to realize that the social science view and the scriptural view are not necessarily diametrically opposed, but I do think that our emphasis in the world is in the wrong place. In my view what the scriptures and the social sciences are trying to mutually underline is the truth that the value of every individual is the same, no matter their skin color, language, or faith! However, as long as we keep focusing on whether we are this “ite” or that “ite” we will always remain separate “ites”. So long as we continue stressing what is diverse, we will always be segregated. Not until we focus on what we have in common as children of God will we be united as one human race. In my opinion the answer to ending the evils surrounding discrimination, hate, and prejudice is not shouting “diversity”, it is shouting “unity”. United under the banner of our alikeness we can then marvel at the wonderful tapestry made up of our uniqueness.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Yo voy a Guatemala

Sometimes life has a way of throwing serious curveballs. Last Friday my internship, which had been in the works for about 6 months, fell through. Turns out they wouldn't be able to pay me. With only 3 weeks to find a placement and very few options available to me I called the coordinator at the school of social work to give her the bad news. She quickly confirmed that the prospects did not look good at all. As we said our goodbyes with little resolution to my dilemma, she asked if I spoke Spanish. You all know the answer and the call ended.

The question intrigued me. I was at work at the time and I just couldn't get it off my mind. In our next phone conversation I asked the coordinator if there was a placement where Spanish was required. I explained that I spoke Italian, that the languages were quite similar, that I had taken a Spanish class, and that I felt that I could pick it up rather easily. She explained that there is a local family here in Provo that opened an orphanage in Guatemala City, Guatemala several years ago who generally recruits interns from BYU for summer placements. Recently they decided to purchase land near Lake Atitlan (one possible location of the Waters of Mormon) in the highlands of Guatemala for an additional orphanage location. The whole process went much more quickly than they had anticipated and they were ready for an intern as soon as possible. They had just called BYU to ask if there were any interested students.

Thus, misfortune met opportunity and the official decision was made today. I had very little time to make this decision, but with significant contemplation, fasting, and prayer I feel comfortable to move forward despite my concerns. I am both excited and uneasy all at the same time! I will truly miss the summer in Utah, I was looking forward to good times with family (my brother comes home the 26th of April from his mission), 5K runs, Zion Nat'l Park, and a host of other summer activities I love. There seem to be more obstacles and concerns than there are reassurances - chief among them the fact that I don't speak fluent Spanish or really feel totally competent in what I am doing in social work - but I decided to not be governed by my fears. Whether or not this once-in-a-lifetime chance is an orchestration from Heaven or merely coincidence I will not attempt to guess, but I look forward to a wonderful opportunity to serve the children of Lehi! Pray for me!