Becoming a More Complex "We"

January 21, 2009

Author: Diana L. Eck

Source: Tikkun

Mr. President, you are the first-ever American president fully aware of the great diversity of America’s faiths. We are a nation of Christians and Jews—and Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists. You understand this and rightly see that this diversity is a source of our strength. Yet, this reality is a great challenge—especially for those who still advocate for a “Christian America.”

As president, your every word and gesture of recognition and respect sets a new tone for people of all faiths in America. How you speak the names of America’s people of faith—Buddhist, Baptist, Muslim, Methodist—and touch the chords of our diversity will change the way in which “we the people” see ourselves. And it will change the way in which people all over the world see America.

Your October letter to Hindus wishing them a “joyous Diwali” as the festival approached gave recognition to a whole community. This was not only a formal gesture—it also conveyed both warmth and understanding. The Sikhs heard from you too. Your response to the questions of the Sikh Coalition for their voter’s guide made it clear that you know your Sikh constituents and have a real concern for the issues of discrimination, hate crimes, and profiling they have faced. Your thoughtful response to the Sikhs stood in stark contrast to that of your opponent: “No Response.”